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Uranium, beryllium soil samples near BWXT Peterborough show ‘no risk’: independent study

Soil samples taken near BWXT Nuclear Canada's facility on Monaghan Road in Peterborough, Ont., show levels of uranium and beryllium well-below accepted environmental and health guidelines. BWXT

The latest soil samples taken around BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada’s facility in Peterborough, Ont., show levels of beryllium and uranium that do not exceed safety and health guidelines, an independent study concludes.

As part of its operating licence renewal agreement, BWXT conducts routine soil sampling at several sites in the city, including Prince of Wales Public School across from the Monaghan Road facility.

The Toronto-based company ships uranium dioxide-filled pellets to the Peterborough facility where they are assembled into CANDU fuel bundles. Beryllium is a lightweight metal used in “small amounts” to join portions of the bundles together.

Read more: BWXT Peterborough lands $50M contract for Darlington nuclear station refurbishment project

According to the September 2021 soil sampling study conducted by SDK Environmental Consulting Services, samples were collected from nearby parks and the school, along with samples from 25 kilometres west of the facility in the village of Omemee.

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The study notes the samples in the Peterborough area did not exceed guidelines for environmental protection and human health established by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME):

  • Uranium: Peterborough soil samples did not exceed 1.0 mg/kg (milligrams/kilogram); CCME’s lowest guideline is 33 mg/kg for environment health and 23 mg/kg for human health.
  • Beryllium: Peterborough soil samples did not exceed 0.55 mg/kg; CCME’s lowest guideline is 4 mg/kg for environmental health and 75 mg/kg for human health.

According to the study, the CCME says the average beryllium soil concentration in Canada is 0.75 mg/kg, but can range from 0.25 mg/kg to 16 mg/kg. The average uranium soil concentration worldwide is 2 mg/kg.

SDK concluded the results for beryllium and uranium for all samples are “well below” the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks safety standards, a similar result for samples collected in 2020 as part of the company’s licence renewal application. The licence renewal was approved in January 2021.

“Based on the results of the sampling program there is no evidence that beryllium or uranium used at the BWXT facility have had any impact on Peterborough soils,” wrote Brian J. Schuyler, senior consultant with SDK.

“No risk has been identified to the soils or to the public of Peterborough.”

Locations where soil samples were collected include:

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  • Prince of Wales Public School on Monaghan Rd.
  • R.A. Morrow Memorial Park on Lansdowne St.
  • Turner Park on Chamberlain St.
  • Kinsmen Park on Sherbrooke St.
  • Del Crary Park on George St. North
  • A park on Adeline St. off Patterson St.
  • Victoria Park on Water St.
  • Bonnerworth Park on Monaghan Road
  • Emily-Omemee Community Centre

BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada president John MacQuarrie stated the soil sampling results highlight the company’s commitment to safety and the environment.

“Similar to last year’s soil sample results for the presence of beryllium in soil, these test results for both uranium and beryllium remain significantly lower than the level regarded as safe by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks,” he said. “This further confirms that our controls continue to be effective in protecting the public and the environment. Our dedicated workforce is committed to maintaining safe operations that positively impacts the environment while helping to build a strong community.”

The study’s results were authorized and verified by an independent, accredited laboratory.

The full report is available on BWXT NEC’s website.

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