Cameco’s requests to nuclear commission opposed by Northwatch – by Dan Bellerose (Sault Star – January 24, 2012)posted in Uranium |
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The largest commercial uranium refinery in the western world, located 140 kilometres east of Sault Ste. Marie, immediately west of Blind River, is seeking to double its licence period and increase production capacity.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission heard the application from Cameco Blind River late last week in Port Hope, Ont., and a decision is expected in the coming weeks.
Cameco, whose current five-year licence expires Feb. 29, wants to double its operating licence period from five years, to 10 years, and increase production capacity by 6,000 tonnes, from 18,000 to 24,000 tonnes.
“Our environmental and safety performance merits a longer licence term,” says Bill Koch, director of public and government affairs for the Cameco fuel services division.
“The request for increased output would allow us an immediate response should the demand arise.”
The requests are not going unopposed.
Northwatch, a coalition of Northeastern Ontario environmental and social justice groups, and Serpent River First Nation, both retained technical experts to assist in the review of Cameco’s application and for presentations to the commission.
Northwatch has been sampling soil in the vicinity of the refinery and claims that environmental impacts, and the risk to human health, are on the rise and “a 10-year licence and increased production will only exacerbate the situation.”
“Our small (soil) samplings have shown an increase in uranium concentrations, significant increases in some areas,” said Brennain Lloyd, Northwatch spokesperson.
The Ministry of Environment has not conducted soil sampling since 2007, said Lloyd, but the ministry has said it will return to the refinery site for sampling later this year.
“That was one of the few pieces of good news that came out of the hearing … The other was the possibility of increased disclosure (from Cameco),” said Lloyd.
Northwatch says it could support a five-year licence, if there were no significant operational changes and more disclosure, but such is not the case, so it favours a two-year licence.
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