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Comment - Cameco PTTGW June 09

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6 pages
BY E-MAIL AND MAILJune 29, 2009Nicholas MurphyPermit to Take Water CoordinatorMinistry of the EnvironmentOperations Division, Eastern Regional Office1259 Gardiners Road, Unit 3, PO Box 22032Kingston, ON K7M 8S5Fax: 613-548-6908Email: Nicholas.Murphy@Ontario.caCC: Michael Binder, President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of OntarioDear Mr. Murphy:Re: Cameco Application for Amendment to Permit to Take Water 6025-BHRJH EBR #: 010-6785Please find enclosed Lake Ontario Waterkeeper’s comments on the above-mentioned matter. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact our counsel, Joanna Bull, at 416-861-1237.Yours truly,Mark MattsonWaterkeeper & President 600 Bay Street, Suite 410. Toronto, ON M5G 1M6T 416-861-1237 admin@waterkeeper.ca www.waterkeeper.caProud member of Waterkeeper Alliance1BACKGROUND Cameco Corporation owns and operates a uranium conversion facility in Port Hope, Ontario. The plant is located at the heart of one of Lake Ontario’s most historic and environmentally vulnerable harbours. For decades, nuclear-related industrial pollution has affected water quality and the natural environment in and around Port Hope.The company has applied for an amendment to the existing Permit To Take Water (PTTW) #6025-7BHRJH, issued in February 2008, which was itself issued as an amendment to the original PTTW #04-P-4012. The MInistry of the Environment ...
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BY E-MAIL AND MAIL
June 29, 2009
Nicholas Murphy Permit to Take Water Coordinator Ministry of the Environment Operations Division, Eastern Regional Office 1259 Gardiners Road, Unit 3, PO Box 22032 Kingston, ON K7M 8S5 Fax: 613-548-6908 Email: Nicholas.Murphy@Ontario.ca
CC:Michael Binder, President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
Dear Mr. Murphy:
Re:Cameco Application for Amendment to Permit to Take Water 6025-BHRJH EBR #: 010-6785
Please find enclosed Lake Ontario Waterkeepers comments on the above-mentioned matter.If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact our counsel, Joanna Bull, at 416-861-1237.
Yours truly,
Mark Mattson Waterkeeper & President
600 Bay Street, Suite 410. Toronto, ON M5G 1M6 Twww.waterkeeper.ca416-861-1237 admin@waterkeeper.ca Proud member of Waterkeeper Alliance
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BACKGROUND
Cameco Corporation owns and operates a uranium conversion facility in Port Hope, Ontario. The plant is located at the heart of one of Lake Ontarios most historic and environmentally vulnerable harbours.For decades, nuclear-related industrial pollution has affected water quality and the natural environment in and around Port Hope.
The company has applied for an amendment to the existing Permit To Take Water (PTTW) #6025-7BHRJH, issued in February 2008, which was itself issued as an amendment to the original PTTW #04-P-4012.The MInistry of the Environment [the Ministry] must decide whether it should renew this permit, and if so, what terms and conditions should be imposed on Cameco to protect the environment.
The facility consists of a uranium hexauoride (UF6) plant and a uranium dioxide (UO2) plant. Both have been shutdown for some part of the past two years.In July 2007, UF6contamination was discovered in the soil and groundwater beneath a plant building.The contaminated groundwater was found to be migrating towards the southeast corner of the property and discharging into Lake Ontario.
The UF6plant was shutdown for 14 months, between July 19, 2007 and September 30, 2008. During that time, Cameco applied to the Ministry of the Environment for a Category 3 amendment to PTTW #04-P-4012 in order to capture and divert groundwater on the site through the installation of pumping wells, excavations, and trenches.The amended PTTW 6025-7BHRJH was issued by the Ministry in February of 2008.In November 2008, the UF6plant was again shutdown, this time due to a contractual dispute between Cameco and its sole supplier of hydrouoric acid (HF), an essential component of UF6production. Itremained closed until June 17, 2009.
In May 2009, Cameco applied for a second amendment to its PTTW in order to install additional pumping wells, “to control the migration of contaminated groundwater”.The application states that water taken up through the pumps would be directed through the plants water treatment system, which consists of an evaporator.The evaporated water would be discharged as water vapour to the atmosphere.The total amount of water taken would not change, but more wells would be installed to allow for greater exibility in reducing contaminant ow into the Lake.This represents an opportunity for Cameco to begin the important process of restoring the area around their Port Hope facility to a healthy, livable, and environmental sound condition.
600 Bay Street, Suite 410. Toronto, ON M5G 1M6 T416-861-1237 admin@waterkeeper.cawww.waterkeeper.ca Proud member of Waterkeeper Alliance
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COMMENTARY
There must be no direct discharge to Lake Ontario.
The area around Camecos Port Hope Conversion Facility is contaminated with waste produced by Camecos predecessor, Eldorado Nuclear, as well as new pollution that has been released to the environment during Camecos tenure.The groundwater beneath the facility is contaminated with uranium, arsenic, uoride, nitrate, ammonia, trichloroethylene, cis-1,2-dichloroethylene and/ 1 or vinyl chloride.Camecos application identifies the proposal as a “Category 3 application” because it carries the highest level of risk to the environment.
The current application for a PTTW states that, “there will be no water directly discharged to the lake, harbour or river from the water taking sources”.A PTTW issued to Cameco through this application process will be contingent on zero emissions to the lake, harbour or river.If this aspect of the operation changes so that emissions enter the surrounding surface water, it will be outside the four corners of this PTTW and should be subject to a new application.
The permit should include terms and conditions to protect the environment.
While it states that no direct discharges to surface water will result from the proposal, the application does not indicate whetherindirectemissions will enter Lake Ontario or the surrounding environment as a result of the proposed water taking.The Application describes the process whereby groundwater will be evaporated and released as water vapour.It explains that this water vapour can bind to airborne uranium emissions from the plant, forming clouds that allow uranium to precipitate out of the air over the Lake and the Town of Port Hope.The Application fails to explain whether other contaminants in the groundwater could be released with the water vapour plume.It also fails to provide any information on Camecos plans for storing or disposing of the precipitated contaminants removed during the evaporation process.
If Camecos PTTW is amended, the Ministry should impose terms and conditions to protect the environment per section 34(6) of the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA):
(6) ADirector may in his or her discretion issue, refuse to issue or cancel a permit, may impose such terms and conditions in issuing a permit as he or she considers proper and may alter the terms and conditions of a permit after it is issued.
1 Golder Associates, “Application for Category 3 Permit To Take Water Amendment: Cameco Corporation Port Hope Conversion Facility” (April 2009) at 4.
600 Bay Street, Suite 410. Toronto, ON M5G 1M6 T416-861-1237 admin@waterkeeper.cawww.waterkeeper.ca Proud member of Waterkeeper Alliance
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Specifically, the Ministry should ensure that testing is implemented to determine whether the release of a vapour plume increases the precipitation of airborne uranium, and whether the vapour plume contains any contaminants that could be introduced into the water cycle.Further, the MInistry should request detailed information from Cameco regarding the precipitated pollutants and the companys plans to store and dispose of them in a way that protects the environment from further contamination.
The permit should be temporary.
Remediation should be full and occur at the source of the contamination.
Camecos application states that the purpose of the water taking is to control the migration of contaminated groundwater.The purpose of the onsite wells is described as “remediation”. However, the Application for Permit to Take Water states that the taking would be “indefinite”. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper submits that the stated timeline and purpose are incompatible.
Remediation implies the return of the site to an unpolluted state through the removal of contaminants. Ifremediation were to occur on the Cameco site, there would cease to be a source of groundwater contamination.The proposed water taking would not need to continue indefinitely because clean groundwater would not continue to become contaminated through contact with subsurface pollution.It is not acceptable for clean groundwater to become contaminated just metres from Lake Ontario year after year.The Ministry should only grant the proposed PTTW on a temporary basis, on the condition that Cameco address the source of contamination.
Vision 2010 will change the water taking requirements on the site.
The original PTTW #04-P-4012 was issued to Cameco for “excavation dewatering” in anticipation of Vision 2010 activities.Vision 2010 is a redevelopment plan initiated by Cameco, the Port Hope Area Initiative and AECLs Low Level Radioactive Waste Management Office.The plan is currently undergoing an environmental assessment.Golder Associates report on the proposed water taking states that the, “groundwater pump-and-treat system will continue to operate until Vision 2010 activities are initiated, at which time the operation of the system will be 2 reviewed in the context of Site redevelopment”.Given the anticipated change to the water taking operation with the beginning of Vision 2010 activities, an amended PTTW should be issued only on the condition that it be reviewed by the Ministry at the start of Vision 2010.
2 Golder Associates, “Application for Category 3 Permit To Take Water Amendment: Cameco Corporation Port Hope Conversion Facility” (April 2009) at 1.
600 Bay Street, Suite 410. Toronto, ON M5G 1M6 T416-861-1237 admin@waterkeeper.cawww.waterkeeper.ca Proud member of Waterkeeper Alliance
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There are untested claims in the Application.
The “Description of Proposed Water Taking Operations” submitted by Cameco states that: a reduction in surface water availability is not expected; the volume of water that will be taken from the harbour should not have an effect on the volume of water in the harbour or harbour wells; and the impacts to air quality through the ultimate evaporation of this groundwater are not expected to have any effect on the climate of the local environment. If the PTTW amendment is issued, these assumptions should be reviewed after a short time to determine their accuracy.It would be inappropriate for the Ministry to issue a permit on the basis of these untested assertions for a period of ten years.A permit granted on these terms must be conditional on ongoing testing to confirm that the taking has no impacts on surface water, the harbour, or air quality.
The permit should not outlast the facilitys federal operating license.
The CNSC issued a five-year operating license to Cameco for the Port Hope Conversion Facility on November 29, 2006.License number FFOL-3631.0/2012 is valid from March 1, 2007 to February 29, 2012, unless suspended, amended, revoked or replaced.Cameco is required to present a mid-point status report in October 2009.
Cameco has applied for an amended permit that would not expire until 2019, seven years after the expiry of the facilitys operating license.Lake Ontario Waterkeeper submits that it is not prudent to grant a permit to take water that would not be reviewed or updated for seven years after the full review of the facility by the CNSC.The provincial permit should have as much accountability built into it as the federal license, including a shorter lifetime.
The proposed evaporation of groundwater may constitute a water taking restricted by international law.
The application states that no water will be discharged to the lake.Instead, approximately 50 000 to 70 000 L/day of water will be withdrawn from the ground and evaporated.According to the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Compact, to which Ontario is a party, evaporation constitutes a consumptive use.Before issuing an amended PTTW that could constitute a major water taking, the MInistry must ensure that licensing this consumptive use is not a violation of the provinces international commitments.
600 Bay Street, Suite 410. Toronto, ON M5G 1M6 Twww.waterkeeper.ca416-861-1237 admin@waterkeeper.ca Proud member of Waterkeeper Alliance
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RECOMMENDATIONS
In accordance with the legal, scientific and policy concerns summarized above, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper submits the following recommendations:
1. If the permit is issued, the Ministry should make it contingent on zero direct emissions to surface water in order to be consistent with the Application.
2. The Ministry should ensure that testing is undertaken to determine whether the release of a vapour plume increases the precipitation of airborne uranium and whether the vapour plume contains any contaminants that couldbe introduced into the water cycle.
3. The Ministry should request detailed information from Cameco regarding the precipitated pollutants and the companys plans to store and dispose of them in a way that protects the environment from further contamination.
4. The Ministry should only issue the PTTW on a temporary basis, on the condition that Cameco address the source of contamination to prevent future groundwater contamination.
5. An amended PTTW should only be issued on the condition that it be reviewed by the Ministry at the commencement of Vision 2010.
6. A permit must be conditional on ongoing testing to confirm that the taking has no impacts on surface water, the harbour, or air quality.
7. Aprovincial PTTW should not outlast the federal facility license, which expires on February 29, 2012.
8. The MInistry must ensure that licensing this consumptive use is not a violation of the provinces international commitments.
600 Bay Street, Suite 410. Toronto, ON M5G 1M6 T416-861-1237 admin@waterkeeper.cawww.waterkeeper.ca Proud member of Waterkeeper Alliance
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