History of LLRW in Canada

In Canada, the radium story begins with the discovery and mining of pitchblende ore (from which radium was extracted) on the shores of Great Bear Lake in Canada’s far north and then its transport south and refinement in Port Hope, Ontario. From the earliest days, the key characters were the Labine brothers in exploration and mining, and at the recovery and refining end, Carl French and Marcel Pochon, a protégé of Marie Curie, all associated with the Eldorado Mining and Refining Company.

Canada’s historic waste mostly consists of soil mixed with process residues and contaminated material. It dates back to the 1930s when radium was mined and then refined for medical and industrial applications in Port Hope, Ontario and the resulting waste deposited in numerous locations in the area. Historic waste also includes radium-uranium ores spilled during transportation from the Northwest Territories along the Northern Transportation Route (NTR) to the refinery in Port Hope.

The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Office (LLRWMO) was established by the Government of Canada in 1982. The LLRWMO is the government agent responsible for addressing the radium legacy in Canada. The Office carries out the federal mandate by establishing and managing many programs and facilities to resolve historic low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) issues across Canada. On behalf of the federal government, the LLRWMO manages historic LLRW where the original producer can no longer be held responsible or the previous method of management is no longer considered acceptable.

The LLRWMO has effectively completed many remediation projects and continues to have ongoing success in resolving the historic radium legacy issues throughout Canada.