This letter appeared in the Toronto Star on June 14. It’s from a resident of Port Hope who understands that low-level radioactive waste doesn’t pose a health threat and that background radiation is as natural as breathing. That doesn’t mean that the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI) is a “scam,” as he says. The government has a responsibility to clean up its legacy nuclear waste, most of which dates back to the Cold War and is unrelated to current operations in Port Hope.
The PHAI website FAQ describes low-level waste as:
In Port Hope (Ward One), low-level radioactive waste consists of soil mixed with small amounts of historic refinery waste, left over from uranium and radium refining operations in the town during the 1930s to 1970s. This contaminated soil contains slightly elevated levels of natural radioactive materials. The Welcome and Port Granby Waste Management Facilities contain residues generated at the refinery from the 1940s to 1988. Low-level radioactive waste in the Port Hope area does not come from nuclear power reactors.
The PHAI clean-up is a process started in the late 1970s, when the issue came to light. It took until 2001 to agree on an acceptable solution. There have been hundreds of consultations with residents, government and Aboriginal groups, plus extensive environmental and public safety assessments. In fact,
each phase of the project has been, and will continue to be, subject to regulatory review and oversight by the CNSC as well as by Environment Canada, Health Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada and several provincial ministries.
There’s also some confusion about the Property Value Protection (PVP) Program. The Program isn’t about compensating people for having historic low-level waste on their property. The PVP Program is designed to protect the property seller if they realize a loss on the sale of their property as a direct result of the clean-up project. This is part of the 2001 agreement between the federal government and Port Hope (and Clarington).
(FYI – the PVP Program is working well with 29 of 40 claims approved since 2001.)
The bottom line: the clean-up is perfectly legitimate and will have a lasting postive impact on the community. Residents of Port Hope have expressed concern about the low-level waste, the government has responded. As an industry we support the Port Hope Area Initiative because of our commitment to public safety and environmental stewardship which includes the safe, secure and responsible management of nuclear waste — from low-level waste to used nuclear fuel from power plants. Learn about the different types of waste and how it’s managed here.
You can sign up for email updates about PHAI on their website.