PORT HOPE – Cameco Corp. vented fluorine into the environment last fall, Port Hope council heard at its Jan. 20 meeting.
On Sept. 27, the uranium hexafluoride (UF6) plant had a gasket failure in the cell room and fluorine was released, Rebecca Peters, superintendent of compliance and licensing at Cameco, told council during the third quarter 2008 update, Tuesday night.
Fluorine is the most reactive and electronegative of all elements. It is a pale yellow, corrosive gas, which reacts with most organic and inorganic substances. Fluorine and its compounds are used in producing uranium.
The September monthly air test results exceeded the Ministry of the Environment limit. The hydrogen fluoride levels in the air went almost as high as 114 grams of hydrogen fluoride per hour. However, the release level is far below the level of hydrogen fluoride which requires medical surveillance – 650 grams of hydrogen fluoride per hour. The average for the third quarter was 11 grams of hydrogen fluoride per hour.
“The increase is related to a gasket failure in the cell room of the UF6 plant,” said Ms. Peters.
Cameco reported the gasket failure to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and the report was accepted.
In November, Cameco announced it was suspending production at the UF6 plant. The plant will be shut down until the second half of 2009 because of a contract dispute between Cameco and its only supplier of hydrofluoric acid. Fifty-one employees were laid off last month, as the company filed a lawsuit against its former supplier alleging breach of contract. The company is in talks with several other hydrofluoric acid suppliers.
The next Cameco community forum will give the public a chance to review the company’s 2008, a look ahead to 2009 and help them interpret the quarterly environmental reports. The community forum will be held Monday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. at the Carpenter’s Union Hall.