Remediation of low-level radioactive waste begins in Port Hope

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First truckloads of low-level radioactive waste are rolling from Port Hope's centre pier to the long-term storage facility.

Officials with the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI) are calling it “a major milestone that’s decades in the making.”

The first truckloads of low-level radioactive waste are on the road taking contaminants from the centre pier to the long-term storage facility on Baulch Road, in the town’s north-west.

“We’ve been waiting since the 1970s for this,” said Scott Parnell, PHAI general manager.

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It has been a long wait that has included some delays along the way for the $1.28-billion project. The federal government committed the cash to cleaning up Port Hope and Port Granby in 2012.

“We have upwards of 30 regulatory agencies we work with. They all have a different set of requirements. We’ve spent years doing the planning work to meet those requirements,” Parnell said.  “A lot has to happen to make that first truckload move across the scales.”

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The 1.2 million cubic metres of historic waste is at various sites across the community.

The waste is from the former Eldorado Nuclear Ltd. facility. It refined radium used for treating cancer and uranium that helped the Manhattan Project develop the first atomic bombs.

Right now, approximately 80 truckloads of waste are being hauled down specific routes through town to the facility daily. At its peak, likely next year, there will be upwards of 200 truckloads per day.

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“The Pine Street temporary storage site is next. We will work with some of the residential properties this summer. We will also work along the waterfront this summer,” Parnell said.

There are a number of safety measures in place to prevent further contamination along the routes.

“Big priority, especially with the dry summer, is the dust control. We have multiple dust control water application trucks, dust suppressant being applied,” said Chris Bobzener, project lead. “We have a robust safety program here. Very stringent requirements on the contractors and clearances.”