Soil resamples at properties adjacent to the BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada‘s facility in Peterborough have been ordered as part of the company’s licence renewal application, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission stated Monday.
A key area of focus for the resamples will be at nearby Prince of Wales Public School, the commission said.
Last month, the commission held a public hearing from March 2 to 6 in Peterborough and Toronto to consider the company’s operating licence renewal for 10 years at both its Peterborough and Toronto facilities.
The company’s licence for both facilities expires on Dec. 31.
Presently the company ships uranium pellets from its Toronto facility and zirconium alloy tubes manufactured at its Arnprior, Ont., site to the Peterborough plant on Monaghan Road, where they are assembled into fuel bundles. BWXT’s facility is located in a section of the former General Electric plant.
However, dozens of residents and groups in Peterborough during the public hearing expressed opposition to BWXT’s additional request to process uranium dioxide pellets at the Peterborough facility — a process currently only permitted at the Toronto plant.
In a release Monday, the commission stated it wants further soil samples near the Peterborough facility after receiving information during the hearing from the company, intervenors and commission’s own staff about beryllium emissions.
“Specifically, in respect of the results from the CNSC’s Independent Environmental Monitoring Program — which showed increasing beryllium concentrations in soil at properties adjacent to the Peterborough facility,” the commission stated.
“The commission has decided that it needs additional information on this topic, including the risk and source of the beryllium, before rendering a decision on this matter.”
BWXT has previously argued the beryllium increases aren’t related to its operations and stated that any of its emissions are “several hundreds of times lower than the Ministry of Environment limits.”
Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Peterborough Public Health’s medical officer of health, said in February that the beryllium levels in the soil at the elementary school were not a “cause for concern.”
“Right now, there isn’t cause for concern because the levels are so far below the established guidelines,” she said.
The City of Peterborough also in February agreed to send a letter to the federal government requesting soil and samples be taken near the BWXT facility.
During the three-day hearing in Peterborough, Salvaterra told the commission there was a “inconsistency” that needed to be investigated since soil samples at Prince of Wales had increased beryllium levels over the past two years but there were no measurable traces of beryllium in air and water samples.
The commission says CNSC staff are to analyze the results of the soil samples with the aim of “clarifying the risk that the increasing beryllium levels may present to the health and safety of the public and the environment.”
“And potentially identifying the reasons for the increase and the source of the beryllium,” the commission stated.
The resampling results are to be submitted to the commission by Aug. 31. The commission will use the results as part of the licence renewal request.
The resampling results and the supplementary submission will be made available to the public, the commission said.