Canada's Port Hope reaps uranium's rewards and risks

Thu Jun 2, 2011 4:44pm EDT
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By Julie Gordon

PORT HOPE, Ontario (Reuters) - The lakeside town of Port Hope, Ontario, encompasses both the promise and the dark side of the nuclear industry, booming with the sector, yet saddled with contamination from when it helped build the bomb.

The town, some 110 kilometers (70 miles) from Ontario's capital Toronto, is home to the world's longest running facility to process nuclear fuel, a massive white eyesore that towers over the sailboats bobbing in its tranquil harbor.

The plant was built in the 1930s to refine radium. It was converted to a uranium facility in 1942 as Canada helped the United States to build an atomic bomb, and now converts uranium for nuclear fuel.

Current owner Cameco Corp, the second largest uranium miner in the world, took over decades later, in 1988, and also runs a second plant that makes fuel rods nearby.

The nuclear power sector boomed on the prospect of soaring Chinese and Indian demand, only to crash as Japan's earthquake brought the potential nuclear problems home.

"There's still a lot of emotion," Cameco Chief Executive Jerry Grandey told Reuters. Referring to the Japan's earthquake stricken nuclear plant, he added: "I think it will take some time to work through Fukushima."

Cameco, which mines and processes uranium, was a big winner in the buzz around a renaissance that could bring dozens of new reactors online around the world in the next decade. Its shares more than doubled from the beginning of 2009 to February 2011.

BOOM AND CRASH   Continued...

<p>Cameco's uranium conversion facility is shown behind sailboats in the Port Hope harbor, Port Hope, Ontario May 30, 2011. REUTERS/Julie Gordon</p>