Monday, November 19, 2012 3:11:36 EST PM
Aurele Gervais, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
(As posted on the Lucknow Sentinel)
The topic of what to do for the long-term management of radioactive waste in Canada has generated much discussion.
But at the same time, there is a lot of confusion about two very different projects that are currently underway: the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) Deep Geologic Repository Project and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) Adaptive Phased Management (APM) Project.
Both of these projects consider the use of a geological repository for long-term management of radioactive waste.
Geological repositories are constructed underground, usually at a depth of several hundred metres or more below ground surface to isolate waste in a stable rock formation.
Projects like these go through a rigorous regulatory review process which includes an environmental assessment and licensing. This process will involve the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Canada’s independent nuclear regulator. The public will have several opportunities to input into the process before any licence is considered.
Different nuclear waste – different regulatory stages
The OPG DGR Project
The OPG Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) Project will only be for low- and intermediate- level radioactive waste (L&ILW) from OPG-owned or operated nuclear generating stations in Ontario.
The waste will be from things like tools, mop heads, rags, paper towels, filters, resins, refurbishment waste and other radioactive contaminated materials from nuclear generating stations. The proposed location for this repository is close to OPG’s Western Waste Management Facility at the Bruce nuclear site in Kincardine, Ontario.
The DGR Project does not include used nuclear fuel.
The regulatory process for the DGR Project started in December 2005 when OPG submitted a project description to the CNSC outlining its intent to construct a geological repository for L&ILW. Since then, the CNSC’s technical experts and an independent Joint Review Panel (JRP), appointed in January 2012, have been reviewing the DGR Project’s environmental assessment and licence application. JRP public hearings for the DGR Project will be held in the Municipality of Kincardine, dates for the hearings have not yet been set.
The APM Project
The other initiative, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) Adaptive Phased Management (APM) Project is for the safe long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel. The NWMO was established in 2002 in accordance with Canada’s Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA) and is responsible to implement this project.
The process for the APM Project is still in its very early stages. In May 2010, the NWMO launched its site selection process to identify a willing and informed community to host a geological repository for the long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel. As of September 30, 2012, a total of 21 communities have formally expressed interest in learning more about the APM Project.
It’s important to note no licence application has been submitted to the CNSC for the APM Project. However, it is an international best practice for the regulator – the CNSC in this case – to be involved early in these types of projects. The CNSC is providing regulatory guidance and is conducting pre-project design reviews of geological repository concepts.
The CNSC also makes presentations to various communities who have expressed an interest to know how the nuclear sector is regulated in Canada, as well as the CNSC’s early role in the APM Project.
Canada’s Nuclear Regulator
The CNSC mandate is to ensure that nuclear activities are done in a manner that protects the environment, as well as the health, safety and security of workers and the public, and to implement Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Nuclear safety is the CNSC’s focus.