Chalk River (Canada)

Map of Chalk River

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Chalk River Nuclear Station: site of several Canadian research facilities included two damaged reactors. The site is planned to host a LLW dump.
At Chalk River Nordion produces Mo-sources.

Facilities in Chalk River

plantreactor typconstruction startoperation startshut down
Chalk RiverLLW storage
Chalk River NRUMo production

A heavy water leak was detected in the Chalk river plant in December. The water that leaked out will be treated at Chalk River's Waste Treatment Centre to reduce contamination, however, water containing tritium, which is not removed in the treatment process,will be released into Ottawa river if the concentration lies beyond a certain treshold. Critics say no water containing radioactive material should be released into the Ottawa River at all.

48.5 kilograms of heavy water containing 48.5 trillion becquerels of tritium (radioactive hydrogen) leaked from the NRU reactor (source: Gordon Edwards)


The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has received an application from Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) for the construction and operation of several facilities for waste treatment and storage. Before the decision a screening environmental assessment must be completed in compliance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.


Four workers are contaminated with plutonium.
(source: greenpeace nuclear accident calendar)


Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s (AECL) 42-year-old NRU research reactor won't be closed when two new Maple-10 production reactors come on line in 2000, but will continue operating as a research reactor until 2005.
NRU meets 70% of the world market for the medical isotope molybdenum-99. Because of its advanced age, the reactor is to be replaced with two Maple-10 reactors, which will take over the profitable molybden-99 production.
Seeking speedy Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) approval of the two Maple plants two years ago, AECL said it was scheduling NRU´s decommissioning to be undertaken by 2000. AECL and MDS Nordion, for whom AECL will run the new Maple-10 reactors, confirmed as late as last week that NRU would be shut down when Maple-10 production begins in two years".
AECL announced last year that NRU will not be run past December 31, 2005.


A strike by 475 members of United Steel Workers at AECL Chalk River Laboratories forced the shutdown of the NRU reactor, sharply cutting the world´s supply of a key medical diagnostic tool, molybdenum-99.
The head of the Chalk River Laboratories said AECL´s "fair and reasonable offer included improved job security - no layoffs of local 1568 members due to contracting out, doubling "bumping" rights, and a 7% salary increase over three years."


Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. officials confirmed a May 28 press report that leakage from Chalk River fuel bays has been seeping into the Ottawa River for years but dismissed it as "negligible" and not significant to public health.
The leakage comes from bays where spent fuel from the NRX research reactor was stored. The unit was shut four years ago and defueled, and the fuel was placed in dry storage two years ago. Cleanup of the bays is expected to start in June.


Nordion International, Inc. supplies 80% of the world's Mo-99 demand, but relies on Canada's 38-year-old NRU research reactor to do so. Since 1991, when Nordion's parent company bought Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s (AECL) radiochemical arm. Nordion has been trying to convince the Canadian government to build radioisotope production facilities to replace the NRU. Nordion maintains that it bought the AECL division with the government's assurance that it would build a 10-MW Maple-X reactor to back up NRU.
Nordion proposes to build two 10-MW Maple-X reactors on the Chalk River site where AECL has already spent $ 40-million on design, development, and site preparation for one Maple-X reactor, which was canceled by the government in 1994.
"The most satisfactory approach to guaranteeing the world supply of molybdenum-99 is to build two new 10-MW reactors together with a new processing facility on the existing NRU reactor site."
Meanwhile, the U.S.DOE is moving ahead with a (U.S.)$ 11-million plant to meet up to 70% of U.S. Mo-99 demand by upgrading a 4-MW reactor at Sandia National Laboratories. DOE launched the effort last spring when the Nordion-Canadian government talks were stalled and hopes to have Mo-99 production underway by the end of fiscal 1996.
In addition, Mallinckrodt Medical pharmaceutical company has obtained a license to upgrade a 45-MW reactor in the Netherlands with a goal of meeting about 25% of global demand for Mo-99.


Deep River, Canada's first "nuke town". Seventy-two per cent of Deep River's voters approved of the idea of bringing the LLW to their community after the federal government assured them that the project would bring with it federal dollars and would secure about 2,300 jobs at Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s (AECL) Chalk River Nuclear Station (NW, 28 Sept., 3).
Now the five-member take force wants to be re-established as "a federal operating agency" and do detailed assessments and technical studies needed to get AECB licenses for the project, resolve outstanding jurisdictional questions, consult with communities along the rail routes, and reconfirm the safety of water supplies downstream from the proposed LLW site.
Most of the LLW was dumped near a uranium refinery in Port Hope before government-approved disposal sites were established starting in 1948. Contaminated dirt and building debris from the dump site was later used as "fill" for housing developments. That contaminated fill (about 100,000 tons) was removed from the home sites in the late 1970s and trucked to Chalk River for indefinite storage, but some 200,000 tons of LLW remained in ravines and public areas of Port Hope or overflowed two disposal facilities.
It is expected to cost $ 254-million to move and bury the radioactively contaminated waste, including $ 145-million at Deep River, $ 73-million in the Malvern and Port Hope areas, and $ 36-million on rail transport. At Deep River $ 82-million would be spent in actual underground disposal operations, $ 48-million on surface facilities and $ 15-million on local trucking. This would be apart from an $ 8.75-million federal grant plus "additional monies" promised the community it it accepts the LLW.


72% of Deep River/Ontario voters backed the government`s plan of putting a LLW dump in their municipal backyard. Government assured them the project would secure 2300 jobs at Chalk River Nuclear Staion for 15 years.

It is planned to dispose 730.000 m³. LLW that has accumulated near the uranium and radium refinery at Port Hope since 1932 and about 140.000 m³. at Chalk River. The disposal site would take 1% of the Chalk River site. 14 caverns would be mined some 150 m below ground in the Cambrian granite. Estimated costs of constructing the disposal cells range from $ 200 to 400 million.
The siting task force expects the government will take 3 years to approve or reject the plan, another 3 to develop the site and 5 more to excavate the disposal vaults. The task force spent 21 million $ over eight years conduction educational campaigns and inviting municipalities to suggest terms under which they would accept an LLW site.


1.5" break in a pipe of the moderator circuit. -> leakage of 3,000 gallons of heavy water. almost all of the heavy water was recovered from sump in the reactor building. about 1 kg got off-site into the river . further tritium was vented from the reactor building.