An Overview – Regulatory Oversight Report for Canadian Uranium Mines and Mills: 2016
Each year, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) releases a report on the safety performance of Canada’s operating uranium mines and mills (UMMs). In 2016, there were five active UMM operations in Canada, all in Saskatchewan: Cigar Lake, McArthur River, Rabbit Lake (which transitioned to care and maintenance), Key Lake, and McClean Lake.
CNSC staff evaluate the safety performance of UMM licensees throughout the year, using the safety and control area (SCA) framework. In 2016, CNSC staff found licensees to be strong performers in radiation protection, environmental protection, and conventional health and safety. More specifically, staff came to these conclusions:
- Radiation protection measures proved to be effective, as no worker exceeded radiation dose limits. Radiation doses received by workers remained as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA).
- Environmental protection programs were well established, resulting in ongoing environmental assessment and monitoring, and in controlled, treated effluent and emissions remaining ALARA.
- Workers remained safe on the job by following best practices and adhering to strong conventional health and safety programs.
To verify the safe maintenance of Canada’s nuclear industry, CNSC staff continuously monitor and assess the performance of licensed facilities to ensure that they are in compliance with all regulations and licence conditions. The cumulative results of these findings are recorded in regulatory oversight reports.
Before publication, the CNSC encourages the public to comment on these reports, offering funding opportunities through its Participant Funding Program for individuals or groups to review the report and participate in Commission meetings. The CNSC is particularly committed to engagement and relationship building with Indigenous communities. Interested First Nation and Métis communities were provided a copy of the draft report, as well as updates on environmental monitoring campaigns at nearby UMM operations.
The report looks at licensees’ safety performance as a whole and then individually, presenting comparisons with previous years and discussing trends where possible.
In 2016, CNSC staff performed 6 inspections at each UMM operation for a total of 30 onsite inspections. These inspections resulted in 43 non-compliances of low safety significance, all of which CNSC staff considered as closed, after determining that the licensees had met all non-compliances with appropriate corrective actions.
CNSC staff rated each safety and control area as "satisfactory" for all facilities, concluding that each licensee made adequate provision for the health and safety of workers, the protection of the public and the environment, and Canada’s international obligations.
Public information and Indigenous and community engagement
The CNSC is committed to keeping the public and Indigenous communities informed of regulatory activities occurring at operating mines and mills, especially timely information regarding the health, safety and security of people and the environment.
In 2016, CNSC staff regularly engaged with the public and Indigenous groups through community workshops, Cameco’s northern community tour, and community and Indigenous group meetings. These activities included community engagement regarding the McClean Lake licence renewal. In addition, the CNSC provided information through the CNSC website and social media, and regularly communicated with Indigenous leadership and representatives by phone, email and letters.
Historic and decommissioned sites
The 2016 regulatory oversight report also provides an update on the historic and decommissioned UMMs in Canada that had changes in performance ratings, notable events, or licensing activities in 2016: Beaverlodge, Cluff Lake, Deloro, Gunnar, Port Radium, and Denison Mines.
CNSC staff presented the following information to the Commission in 2016, establishing that the historic and decommissioned UMMs continued to be monitored and maintained:
- Key indicators used to evaluate performance identified all sites to be in stable or improving condition.
- Waste rock piles, tailings facilities, and infrastructure are all in a safe state and continuously monitored.
- Dams are stable and regularly maintained, as verified through regular geotechnical inspections.
- All sites have part-time staff who carry out maintenance and monitoring as designed in the respective decommissioning plans.
CNSC staff have concluded that in 2016 each of the regulated uranium mines and mills covered in this report made adequate provision for the health and safety of the workers, the protection of all people and the environment, and Canada’s international obligations.
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