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The nuclear waste site at the heart of Canada’s wildfires via Euronews

Just south of the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, in an area partly ravaged by flames, sits a nuclear waste site.

Situated at the extreme north of the Beacon Hill landfill tip, it contains some 42,500 m3 of radioactive minerals, including uranium and cesium.

But does it pose a threat to society today? According to information gained by euronews reporter Renaud Gardette, the site lies in the middle of the huge wildfires, blazing uncontrollably since May 1.

Why was the landfill created?

To understand the origins of the landfill site, we must first go back to 1982 when Canada launched an extensive exploration and containment of low-level radioactive land programme all over the territory. It was piloted by the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Office (LLRWMO).

In Fort McMurray, radioactive minerals were regularly discharged and used along the Northern Transportation Road. Built in the 1930s, the thoroughfare was initially used to transport uranium from the Port Radium mine (Northwest Territories) to Fort McMurray. From there, uranium was also transported by train to Port Hope, Ontario.

The Port Radium mine closed in 1960. Thefts and pillages occurred along the road and that is where the contamination is most visible.

The LLRWMO detected more radioactive sites around Fort McMurray. Work began in 1992 and, up to 2003, 42,500m3 of waste were sent to a specially-engineered landfill with a double layer of clay, several management systems, protection and monitoring, as well as a layer of earth and grass.

The site is monitored annually by the LLRWMO.

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