Whiteshell reactor could be entombed

Change to decommissioning plan being considered

Winnipeg Sun | The Whiteshell Reactor No. 1 hasn’t operated since 1985, but now the issues of how to properly decommission the former nuclear research reactor and its nuclear waste are arising.

The current proposal from Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) would see all high-level nuclear waste shipped to a CNL site in Chalk River, Ont., while the structural components of the reactor, such as the vessel and piping, would remain entombed underground within a modified cement capsule. According to the CNSC, this is a process that has occurred before in the U.S.

“(This) is a change over what they have on their existing detailed decommissioning acts,” said Robert Barker, Senior Project Officer of the CNSC’s Wastes and Decommissioning Division.

The CNSC already has a decommissioning licence, which has allowed for redundant buildings to be demolished, and for new waste-handling sites to be built. But this licence expires in December 2018, and the CNSC has plans to apply for renewal by September 2017. With the renewal of the licence comes the opportunity to change the parameters of the decommissioning process.

“With that process, we will consider their application to change the approach for and allow for in situ decommissioning,” said Barker. “At this point we only have the project description, we don’t have the licence application, and we don’t have the environmental impact statement. So we can’t really assess whether that would be an acceptable approach or not. But it will be done in due process.”

The CNSC assured that despite the environmental assessment being done federally, the licensee is required to meet all government regulations, whether federal or provincial.

The current Manitoba law states that “no person shall provide storage for high-level radioactive waste or spent nuclear fuel underground or in an above-surface environment that is not subject to continuous monitoring, as agreed between the government and the research facility, and that does not provide reasonable human access to the containers in which the waste or nuclear fuel is contained.” It also does not allow for facilities to be provided for the disposal of high-level radioactive wastes in Manitoba.

Information sessions will be held at the Pioneer Club of Lac du Bonnet on May 18 from 1-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.


JASON FRIESEN, THE WINNIPEG SUN, TUESDAY, MAY 16, 2017 08:12 PM CDT, as posted at http://www.winnipegsun.com/2017/05/16/whiteshell-reactor-could-be-entombed

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