Canadian uranium return completed

25 March 2011

All of the sea containers from a shipment of uranium concentrate that encountered problems en route from Canada to China have been safely removed from the ship and are now back at the Key Lake uranium mill in Saskatchewan, Cameco has announced. The ship carrying the yellowcake, the Altona, encountered severe weather conditions while crossing the Pacific in late December 2010 which caused some sea containers to shift and some of the drums to open. The ship returned to port in British Columbia at Cameco's recommendation, and a remediation plan to remove all the containers and uranium was approved by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in February. All of the uranium had remained within the ship's hold, with no hazard to the ship's crew or the environment. Uranium concentrate, often referred to as yellowcake, is extremely stable with low radioactivity and can be handled in a similar way to other toxic heavy metals such as lead. Each container was inspected on removal from the hold then wrapped in an overpack before trucking to Key Lake, where recovered uranium will be processed if necessary to ensure purity before returning to the nuclear fuel cycle. Investigations are continuing into why the containers shifted in the first such incident to occur in over 20 years of sea shipments of uranium by the company.

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