Uranium mining legacy expensive, The Star Phoenix, By Ann Coxworth, May 30, 2013 “…….The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission recently reviewed plans for continuing management of some of the contaminated sites in northern Saskatchewan – relics of uranium mining activities that took place during the 1960s and 1970s.
The cost of remediating surface waters to levels compatible with Saskatchewan surface water quality objectives is so overwhelming thatwe know it will never happen.
Because the companies that caused the pollution are no longer in existence, these costs now fall to the federal and provincialtaxpayers. The goal of industry and regulators now is simply to prevent the contamination from getting any worse.
One such contaminated region is the Beaverlodge area.
Beaverlodge Lake, just north of Lake Athabasca and east of Uranium
City, is linked to Lake Athabasca through a series of small lakes and
rivers. It is beautiful, and is home to an abundance of fish……..
Beaverlodge Lake, however, is contaminated with the poorly managed
wastes from uranium mining operations that closed down in the early
1980s. Eldorado Nuclear was a federal crown corporation that mined and
milled uranium close to the northeast corner of Beaver-lodge
Eldorado no longer exists. The federal government created a new body,
Canada Eldor Inc., to be responsible for liabilities remaining from
Canada Eldor has been financing work on continuing monitoring,
decommissioning and planning of remediation of the actual mine and
mill sites. However, this does not include Beaver-lodge Lake itself,
although much of the contamination has drifted downstream into that
lake and, from there, into the smaller lakes and streams that feed
into Lake Athabasca.
The situation is complicated by the fact that other abandoned mine
sites a little further west, owned by other defunct companies, have
also contributed to the problem in Beaverlodge Lake. The end result is
that Beaverlodge, a 57-squarekilometre body of water, is contaminated
with uranium and selenium at levels many times higher than
Saskatchewan surface water quality objectives require. Fish
consumption restrictions now apply…..
In April, Cameco appeared at a public hearing of the CNSC to apply for
a 10year extension of its licence to manage the old Eldorado sites on
behalf of Canada Eldor Inc. Cameco presented a plan for stabilization
of the contamination which, it hopes, would get the sites into a
condition where they could be turned over to Saskatchewan’s
Institutional Control Program, relieving the federal government of
responsibility and of the need for CNSC licensing.
This plan would still leave unacceptably high levels of contamination
in five watersheds.