Uranium & Nuclear

Uranium mining has been a significant industry in Saskatchewan since the 1950s, when the major demand for the product was for the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. More recently, uranium is chiefly used for fuelling nuclear power reactors, in Canada, the United States, as well as overseas. Uranium ore is mined in northern Saskatchewan and milled there to create yellowcake before being shipped to Ontario for refining and further processing into fuel bundles. Past mining operations, some abandoned without proper decommissioning, have left extensive watersheds seriously contaminated with radioactive and chemical wastes. SES has prepared a video “Uranium – Let’s Talk About It” which describes the nuclear fuel chain from mining to waste management.

The Saskatchewan Environmental Society has taken positions calling for the phase-out of uranium mining, opposing nuclear power development in Saskatchewan, and opposing disposal of used nuclear fuel in Saskatchewan. Concerns include the historic, unremediated contamination of northern watersheds with radioactive tailings from the milling process, current management of mining wastes, lack of safe methods for long-term management of used nuclear fuel, and the unavoidable link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Saskatchewan is no longer being considered a potential location for a used fuel disposal site.

SES has participated in a number of federal and provincial environmental assessment and licensing processes related to new and continuing mining operations and to remediation planning for abandoned mining sites and those engaged in decommissioning. Learn more about our submissions on BeaverlodgeKey Lake and Rabbit Lake, and the Gunnar remediation project. SES also intervened in the review of the re-licensing proposal for the McClean Lake mine and mill site, and the Cluff Lake Decommissioning Project.

SES has reviewed the documentation describing the decommissioning of the Tailings Management Area (TMA) at the Cluff Lake uranium mine/mill site in northern Saskatchewan. The study was undertaken with the support of Orano Canada Inc., with the aim of identifying any differences of opinion between SES and Orano about the adequacy of the decommissioning, and, where differences were found, to define the basis of the disagreement.

SES has critically examined much of the documentation produced by Orano to support the company’s claim that the site is ready to be released to the Government of Saskatchewan’s Institutional Control Program, and has commented on Orano’s responses to a number of issues and concerns about the condition of the TMA that have been raised by the public. The causes of concern or disagreement that have been identified fall into six general categories:

  • Ambiguity resulting from use of vague language;
  • Assumptions used in drawing conclusions;
  • Lack of consensus on values;
  • Actual limitations of knowledge;
  • Lack of faith that future regulatory regimes will be able to act reliably over the long-term future; and
  • Trust.

Read the report here.