Atomic Energy of Canada Limited

Environmental
Stewardship

Port Hope Area Initiative

The Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI) represents the Government of Canada’s commitment to clean-up and safely manage historic low-level radioactive waste currently located in the municipalities of Port Hope and Clarington in Ontario.

The objective is to safely manage roughly 1.7 million cubic meters of historic low-level radioactive waste. Modern near surface facilities for the long-term management of the wastes have been constructed in each municipality and are now receiving waste from existing waste management facilities, as well as other wastes which are located in the local area.

The PHAI is a community-recommended solution to a longstanding environmental issue and is currently scheduled to be completed in 2024. The PHAI is being carried out as two projects – the Port Hope Project and the Port Granby Project. Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is implementing the PHAI on AECL’s behalf. More information on the PHAI can be found on CNL’s website.

Port Hope

The Port Hope Project involves the cleanup of approximately 1.2 million cubic meters of historic low-level radioactive waste from sites located in Port Hope, the construction of a near surface facility (engineered containment mound), and the long-term monitoring and maintenance of the new waste management facility.

The site of the new facility is an existing, low-level radioactive waste management facility located in the Municipality of Port Hope. Waste at the existing site has been excavated and placed in the new mound.

The primary goal of the Port Hope Project is to return remediated sites to their pre-construction state or to a better condition, with a vision of creating areas for recreational uses such as walking trails and a lookout point.

Port Granby

The Port Granby Project is an initiative for the safe, long-term management of historic low-level radioactive waste located in the Municipality of Clarington. Approximately 450,000 cubic meters of historic low-level radioactive waste are being relocated from an existing waste management facility on the shoreline of Lake Ontario, to a new, near surface facility (engineered containment mound) about a kilometer north of the current site.

FAQs

Where did this waste for these projects come from?

The waste resulted from the past radium and uranium refining operations of a former Crown corporation, Eldorado Nuclear, and its private-sector predecessors.

How will the waste be transported?

Covered trucks are used to transport the waste from their current location to the waste management facility. Trucks are thoroughly monitored prior to leaving both the remediation site after loading and when leaving the waste facility after unloading at the waste facility.

At Port Hope trucks follow designated transportation routes to minimize the impact on the community and the environment.

At Port Granby the trucks are able to avoid the use of public roads by travelling along an internal waste haul route.

What does the containment mound look like and is it safe?

The waste storage facilities at Port Hope and Port Granby are of a similar design. The low-level radioactive waste is being contained in a near surface facility, which isolates it from the environment using multi-layer base liner and cover systems. The facility encases the waste on the top, bottom and sides in thick layers of natural and manufactured materials that prevent contaminants from entering the groundwater and keep precipitation and melting snow from entering it.

Monitoring systems have been installed within the facility  and around the perimeter of the long-term waste management facility site to ensure long-lasting security and safety.

Radiation at the surface will be at normal background levels once the facility is capped and closed. The safety and performance of the facility will be closely monitored during construction and for hundreds of years into the future.

Are there any dangers to the surrounding environment?

The PHAI is aiming to clean up the historic waste in Port Hope and Clarington in an environmentally responsible way in order to leave an honourable legacy for the future.

Two waste water treatment plants have been built specifically for the projects to treat all water collected at the waste facilities, during and after construction.

The plants have been designed to treat a wide range of contaminants using a two-stage process – biological treatment followed by reverse osmosis – ensuring the treated waste water meets all requirements for discharge to Lake Ontario.

What will the sites look like following completion?

At Port Hope the remediated sites will be returned to their pre-construction states, or better and it is thought that the facility, which will look like a grassy mound, could be used for recreation such as walking trails and a look out. The Municipality of Port Hope is working on redevelopment plans.

At Port Granby, the facility will be shaped in a mound made to resemble a natural landform and tilted to mimic existing drumlins in the area. After the waste is removed from the existing site, the site will be restored and returned to a natural state. Decisions have yet to be made as to the future use of the site.