The contamination at Elliot Lake

“This story is behind a paywall but CNS members may be asked about it today. Their homes sit on radioactive mining waste and no one told them | The Star

I have a great deal of sympathy for innocent individuals who continue to have their lives affected by legacy contamination because it is not clear who is responsible for the clean-up.  I used to write regularly on social media about the heart rending situation at Grassy Narrows where mercury, disposed of by a papermill, continues to cause serious health problems for an entire community.

This story may however be used to attack today’s nuclear power industry and that would be inappropriate.  This contamination was, as the story confirms, a result of the rush to weapons production that took place very shortly after the power of the atom had been discovered and before anyone had even thought of using it to make electricity. The information needed for proper regulation did not exist and more pressing issues (the war) led to shortcuts being taken.

Our modern regulatory process, informed by knowledge and considerable experience, requires that a specific license has to be held to produce, handle and dispose of radioactive materials.  This ensures that the regulator is aware of who the licence holder is, that they can be held responsible for ensuring procedures are correctly followed and that should any contamination arise it is properly remediated by them.  With that clarity we know that even these legacy problems can be dealt with successfully because AECL last year announced the completion of the Port Granby Project which included the safe excavation and transfer of low-level radioactive waste from an unstable site to a newly constructed waste management facility.

That said I hope that these people get a quick and satisfactory response to their problem so that they can enjoy their properties without concern.”

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