Drilling waste poses very little risk

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The Yukon government agrees with citizens’ concerns that the risk associated with naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) encountered in oil-and-gas operations must be evaluated, and where appropriate, tested, transported and disposed, based on this risk. NORM are regulated by several Yukon government departments with the explicit purpose of protecting people, workers and the environment.

The concentration of NORM that could occur in drilling waste from Northern Cross Yukon’s operations is thought to be far below the threshold to pose any risk to humans or the environment.

Technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials (TENORM), as mentioned in some correspondence, is another category of radioactive material that is more commonly associated with operations that concentrate NORM, which can occur in association with oil-and-gas production. Such activities are not presently occurring in the territory.

Yukon Geological Survey has readings from over 2,000 outcrops near to and in similar formations as Northern Cross Yukon’s drilling operation taken with a radiation measuring gamma meter. These measurements indicate that NORM, which are most commonly associated with shales, are in such a low concentration that additional testing prior to transport and disposal is not necessary. If, in a case where NORM were evident in a higher concentration, officials would ensure that all regulatory measures and testing would apply.

The Yukon government has been diligent in providing data, sharing regulatory information, providing information on guidelines for NORM management, and demonstrating how geologists test for radiation to inquiring citizens. All of these efforts have been to show that our geological research and regulations exist to prevent inappropriate exposure to unsafe material and that the drilling waste in question poses minimal risk to people and the environment.

Ron Sumanik, Director, Oil and Gas Resources

Carolyn Relf, Director, Yukon Geological Survey

Energy, Mines and Resources,Yukon government

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