Northern Transportation Route
Small quantities of historic low-level radioactive waste are present in the Northwest Territories and northern Alberta. This waste is a result of past handling and spillage of uranium ore at certain points along the Northern Transportation Route, a 2,200 km route made up of waterways and portages between Port Radium, Northwest Territories and Fort McMurray, Alberta. The waste does not pose a risk to people or the environment in its current form; however, certain sites must be remediated in order to enable their use for other purposes.
In the 1930s, Eldorado Gold Mines Limited established a mine in Port Radium, Northwest Territories and a refining facility in Port Hope, Ontario. The uranium ore was shipped to southern Ontario, but first had to travel along the Northern Transportation Route before being loaded onto rail cars in Fort McMurray to be sent to Port Hope for refining.
Between the 1930s and the 1960s, some spillage occurred at the transfer points along the route as the ore was being transferred to refinery. The discovery of this contamination came in the early 1970s and continued with the formal identification of the contamination along the Northern Transportation Route and at the refinery in Port Hope and surrounding areas.
The sites containing higher radiation levels were cleaned up over the past two decades. The potential radiological exposure remaining at the sites which have not yet been restored have all been assessed by an independent consultant. The report concluded that levels of uranium at Northern Transportation Route sites do not pose radiological health risks for their current uses.
All of the remaining uranium-ore spillage sites will be restored by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories over the next few years to meet the criteria for unrestricted future land use.
AECL is working with CNL and engaging with local communities and Indigenous groups to establish clean-up plans for all remaining sites so that the land will be suitable for unrestricted future use (i.e. suitable to be used for any purpose).