Uranium Mining in Canada - CNSC Online

Uranium Mining in Canada

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Table of contents

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Overview of Uranium Mining

The CNSC, licensees, and the public
working together to ensure safety
now and for the future.

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

What is uranium?

Uranium is a radioactive element found in nature. It is used as fuel in nuclear reactors.
Geologists and prospectors search the land for uranium by surveying, drilling and cutting lines through forests.

 
Uranium ore

Uranium Ore

Uranium ore is extracted from mines. It is not pure, but bound to other rocks. This is called Pitchblende.

Yellowcake

Yellowcake

The ore is milled into uranium oxide called yellowcake and shipped to a processing facility.

Two nuclear fuel pellets

Nuclear Fuel

Yellowcake is sent for refining or processing and made into fuel fuel pellets which are used to run nuclear power reactors.

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

A carefully regulated industry

When uranium is discovered in Canada and a company wishes to mine it, the CNSC is involved at every step to ensure safety. The protection of workers, the public and the environment are top priorities.

The CNSC is also committed to including the public, Aboriginal peoples and other government agencies in discussions and decisions about uranium mines and mills.

Decorative art
Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Fast Fact

Saskatchewan has the world's richest uranium deposits with ore grades up to 100 times the world average.

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Laws and regulations: Keeping it safe

Laws and regulations for mines and mills

Several laws and regulations define how uranium mines and mills must operate to protect workers, the public and the environment.

It is the CNSC's responsibility to ensure mine and mill operators are following the rules while respecting Canada's international commitments.

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Laws and regulations: Keeping it safe

Laws and regulations for mines and mills, Parliament of Canada

Nuclear Safety and Control Act

Parliament of Canada

Parliament passed this act in 2000, creating the CNSC and setting out our work. The Act puts the CNSC in charge of supervising anyone who makes, uses, handles or stores nuclear substances.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act

Uranium mines and mills regulations

These regulations explain the 5 stages for getting a license, building, operating and closing a uranium mine. These requirements are important knowledge for mining companies and people who live near mines.
Uranium mines and mills regulations

Radiation Protection Regulations

These regulations set limits on the amount of radiation the public and nuclear energy workers can receive. The regulations require every licensee to have a radiation protection program that keeps radiation exposure as low as is reasonably achievable.
Radiation Protection Regulations

Packaging and Transport of Nuclear Substances Regulations

These regulations apply to anyone transporting nuclear materials in Canada. The regulations make sure such packages are certified, and that nuclear materials are packaged and transported safely.
Packaging and Transport of Nuclear Substances Regulations

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Fast Fact

The Nuclear Safety and Control Act designates uranium mines and mills as nuclear facilities.
A CNSC licence is required to prepare a site, construct, operate, decommission or abandon any uranium mine or mill.

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Other Federal Legislation

Other Federal Legislation

CNSC staff work closely with federal and provincial regulatory bodies. Inspectors share inspection reports and report reviews.

The CNSC is the federal regulator for the uranium industry. It is the responsibility of the CNSC to ensure the safety of uranium mining and milling operations.

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Other Federal Legislation

Other Federal Legislation, Parliament of Canada

Canada Labour Code

Parliament of Canada

This legislation addresses the topic of how employees and employers work together, as well as the topics of health and safety, and hours, wages, vacations and holidays.
Canada Labour Code

Canadian Environmental Protection Act

This Act is intended to prevent pollution and protect the environment and human health.
Canadian Environmental Protection Act

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act

This Act is designed to ensure that environmental considerations are part of the planning and decision-making processes involved with development projects.

This Act tells the CNSC that, in our work, we must consider how nuclear projects might affect the environment.
Canadian Environmental Assessment Act

Fisheries Act

This Act was established to manage and protect Canada's fisheries. The Act applies to all of Canada's fishing zones, territorial seas and inland waters, and applies to federal, provincial and territorial governments.
Fisheries Act

Species at Risk Act

This Act was established to protect wildlife species that are at risk, including fish, reptiles, marine mammals and molluscs. This legislation is important to anyone involved in activities that affect the habitats of at-risk aquatic species.
Species at Risk Act

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act

This Act promotes public safety and deals and with the transportation of all types of dangerous goods by all types of transport in Canada.
Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act

Metal mining effluent regulations

These regulations outline acceptable practices concerning waste water from mining projects.
Metal mining effluent regulations

Land claim agreements

These agreements are negotiated in places where Aboriginal rights and title have not been addressed by treaty or through other legal means. They often address topics such as land ownership, money, water, wildlife and environmental management, promoting economic development, and protecting Aboriginal culture.
Land claim agreements

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Working with domestic partners

The CNSC works with other government departments, such as Environment Canada, Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, to make sure that uranium mining operations are safe for workers, the public and the environment.

The CNSC also works with regional, provincial and territorial governments to oversee uranium mines and mills. The partners discuss common concerns, conduct joint inspections, carry out technical reviews at the same time, and share inspection reports.

Decorative Art
Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Fast Fact

There's uranium in your back yard.

The top metre of soil in the typical Canadian back yard contains about 300 grams of uranium.

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Licensing

Licensing

Any company that wants to operate a uranium mine or mill must first get a licence from the CNSC.

A licence will not be awarded to an applicant that does not meet all the requirements.

As part of the licensing process, the CNSC makes sure that every applicant can pay for cleanup and monitoring of the site while it is operating and after it is closed. The CNSC will not issue a licence without this financial guarantee.

Licensing
Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Staged licensing

There are five stages in the lifecycle of a nuclear facility. Each stage must be licensed by the CNSC.

  • Site Preparation
  • Construction
  • Operation
  • Decommissioning
  • Release from License
The 5 stages of licensing
Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

The licensing process

Licence applications go through a strict process.

  • Application
  • Environmental Assessment
  • Technical Assessment
  • Decision
Application, Environmental Assessment, Technical Assessment, Decision
Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Public Participation

Aboriginal Peoples and other Canadians who may be affected by the application are involved throughout the process:

  • Application
  • Environmental Assessment
  • Technical Assessment
  • Decision
The licensing process
Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Fast Fact

Canadian uranium mines located in northern Saskatchewan provide 25% of the world's supply.

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

The CNSC Helps

The CNSC provides the public and licensees with information documents such as Licensing Process for New Uranium Mines and Mills in Canada. It helps licensees better understand their roles and the CNSC's roles in the uranium mining licensing process. It also outlines opportunities for the public to participate in the decision-making process.

This document and other information documents are available on the CNSC Web site at nuclearsafety.ca.

The CNSC Helps
Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Keeping the public informed

Uranium mining and milling operators must keep the public informed about their activities through a public information program (PIP). Without a PIP, an applicant cannot get a licence.

CNSC staff assess each PIP for presentation during a licence hearing and continues to review it through all stages of re-licensing during a facility's life-cycle. The CNSC recommends improvements if the PIP is inadequate or incomplete. Communicating results to the workers, the regulators, and to the public and aboriginal peoples.

Keeping the public informed
Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Public Comment

The public has many ways to provide feedback to both the CNSC and Licensees:
Online, on the phone, by mail and at public hearings. The CNSC works as closely with the public as it does with licensees and the public voice is heard loud and clear.

Public Comment
Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Fast Fact

Uraniums mining in Canada does not release harmful radiation.

CNSC staff verify that activities at uranium mines and mills are carried out in a way that is safe and ensures that radiation doses to workers and the public are below radiation dose limits and as low as reasonably achievable.

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Ensuring compliance

Once a licence is issued, CNSC staff conduct an ongoing Compliance Program for each uranium mine and mill site to ensure that the licensee is meeting its commitments. The compliance program has three parts, Verification, Clarity and Enforcement.

Verification

Verification

CNSC inspectors visit each mine site three to four times per year to observe how licensed activities are carried out, and to interact with the workers and management. They review reports that contain radiation and environmental monitoring results. They also review accident and incident investigations and measures the licensee has taken to prevent them from reoccurring. The CNSC takes action when needed.

Clarification

Clarification

If a licensee's performance is weak, CNSC staff ensure that the licensee and its workers understand all regulatory requirements. By providing guidance, the CNSC promotes nuclear safety and requires the licensee to take action if people or the environment could be compromised in any way.

Enforcement

Enforcement

If the licensee is not meeting requirements, or abiding by their application and licensing commitments, or if their activities are not protecting workers and the environment, the CNSC can require the licensee to take action.

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Radiation Protect Doses as low as possible

A licensee's radiation protection program must show that the licensee is aware of how much radiation is released during normal work. Licensees are required to measure doses to workers, record and explain the results to the workers, and ensure the data is stored permanently in the National Dose Registry.

All licensees are required to have a radiation protection program in place to keep workers, the public and the environment safe. The CNSC oversees all such programs to ensure that radiation doses are "as low as reasonably achievable"(ALARA).

Doses as low as possible
Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Radiation Protect Doses as low as possible - For Workers

Licensees protect their workers by making sure facilities are well designed and by offering proper training, operating instructions, work planning and risk assessments.

Since the Nuclear Safety Control Act came into force in 2000, no uranium mine or mill worker has exceeded the radiation doses allowed by the CNSC.

Doses as low as possible  - For Workers
Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Radiation Protect Doses as low as possible - For the public

A licensee's radiation protection program must set out how the licensee will measure radiation in air, water, fish, mammals and plants. The licensee must also calculate the potential dose to members of the public. The public is protected by protecting the environment.

Doses as low as possible - For the public
Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Radiation Protect Doses as low as possible - Protecting the Environment

All mines and mills are required to have an environmental protection program. Such a program protects air, water, land, fish, animals and plants.

Mine and mill facilities, and the ways in which they operate, must be designed so that as few contaminants as possible are released into the environment.

Any company that operates a mine or mill must commit to measuring the effects of their activities on the surrounding environment -and then communicate their activities to workers, the public, and regulators such as the CNSC.

Decorative environmental graphic
Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Packaging and Transport

Decorative packaging and transport graphic

Yellowcake drums must be designed to ensure that they can be safely carried by road, rail, air and sea transportation. The drums must also be designed to be handled safely and easily, and be properly secured.

The shipper must have an emergency response plan and someone available to respond 24/7. All transport incidents must be immediately reported to the CNSC. CNSC staff will provide technical information and advice to responders on site and can be deployed to assist in managing an incident.

Decorative packaging and transport graphic
Decorative packaging and transport graphic

The CNSC conducts inspections focused on transportation to verify that workers are trained, that documents are completed properly, and that the shipment meets requirements.

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Fast Fact

Workers and the public living near uranium mines are as healthy as the general Canadian population.

Studies show that workers and the public living near uranium mines are as healthy as the general Canadian population. The health risk to miners working in modern uranium mines from radiation exposure is low. This is because over the last 60 years we have learned how to keep workers radiation doses very low.

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

International Commitments

The CNSC works with the international community to understand the health and safety from uranium mining. The CNSC also supports Canada's commitment to ensure that uranium mined in this country is used only for peaceful purposes. We accomplish these goals by upholding various bilateral agreements with other countries, monitoring export controls, verifying inventories, and enabling IAEA Safeguard Inspections.

The CNSC works with the international community to understand the health and safety from uranium mining. The CNSC also supports Canada's commitment to ensure that uranium mined in this country is used only for peaceful purposes. We accomplish these goals by upholding various bilateral agreements with other countries, monitoring export controls, verifying inventories, and enabling IAEA Safeguard Inspections.

International Atomic Energy Agency logo and CNSC logo
Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Fast Fact

Today's uranium mining and processing activities does not place a burden on future generations.

The CNSC requires facility operators to maintain adequate financial guarantees to cover cleanup and monitoring of sites during operations and after they are closed.

A financial guarantee is an important condition of a CNSC licence.

Module icon

Uranium Mining in Canada

Find out more About us