Canadian Consulting Engineer

Low-level radioactive waste in Port Hope to go in mound

October 24, 2008
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Plans to clean up the low-level radioactive waste in Port Hope, Ontario are undergoing the regulatory approvals pro...

Plans to clean up the low-level radioactive waste in Port Hope, Ontario are undergoing the regulatory approvals process, but it is anticipated that detailed design of the remediation plans will be going out for bids next year.
Port Hope on the shores of Lake Ontario east of Toronto, and Port Granby 18 kilometres in Clarington to its west, are both still coping with contaminated soils from the refining of uranium and radium starting back half a century. The low level radioactive material was produced by then-crown corporation Eldorado Nuclear between 1930 to 1970. Soils containing elements from the original ore and some chemicals used in refining were used for fill around the area, or were disposed of in garbage tips.
During the 1970s 100,000 cubic metres of contaminated soil was shipped out of town in dump trucks. However, low-level radioactive material is still sitting in roadside properties and landfills. Port Hope has an estimated 1.2 million cubic metres of such material, and Port Granby has an estimated 450,000 cubic metres.
To manage this remaining problem, the Port Hope Area Initiative was launched in 2001. It resulted in a 16-volume environmental assessment and a draft screening report, and based on those recommendations, authorities decided to go ahead last year. The federal government has committed $290 million to the clean-up project.
The MMM Group, CRA, and Golder Associates are engineering companies involved in the remediation studies and plans.
According to Sue Stickley at Low Level Radioactive Waste Management Operations office in Port Hope, the design for managing the waste is to store it in above-ground mounds. The mound at Port Granby, for example, will be approximately 2 hectares in area and 10 metres high. The engineered mounds will have linings and will be capped with multiple layers. They will be monitored and will have leachate collection systems, which will be expected to be required for 25 years or less. It’s anticipated that the mounds eventually will be safe enough for public use.


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