Community Questions and Answers

Julliet 2016

Pourquoi la durée de temps est-elle si longue?
L a SGDN s’attend à ce que le processus de sélection du site requiert encore plusieurs années d’évaluation continue et de plus en plus détaillée avant qu’un site préférentiel à un endroit spécifique soit identifié et discuté avec la communauté. Plusieurs années sont requises pour confirmer tous les aspects de sécurité technique; pour comprendre les effets potentiels sociaux, économiques, culturels et environnementaux du projet; et déterminer le consentement de la communauté. Un examen de projets semblables dans d’autres pays démontre que les ‘meilleures pratiques’ indiquent qu’une longue période de temps est requise pour que les personnes en connaissent davantage au sujet du projet, posent des questions et évaluent leur intérêt dans le projet.

Actuellement, Elliot Lake et 8 autres communautés en Ontario demeurent engagées dans le processus de sélection d’un site sécure avec un hôte informé et consentant pour un dépôt géologique en profondeur devant contenir et cloisonner le combustible nucléaire irradié du Canada. La majorité de ces communautés, y compris Elliot Lake, sont dans la 2e phase de l’évaluation préliminaire. Les évaluations préliminaires sont la 3e de 9 étapes dans le processus de sélection d’un site. Si vous êtes intéressés, vous pouvez lire davantage au sujet du processus de neuf étapes sur le site de la SGDN :
www.nwmo.ca/sitingprocess_thesteps.

 

Est-ce que le produit livré pour être entreposé dans un dépôt géologique en profondeur pourrait être utilisé par les terroristes pour faire des bombes?
De prime abord, il est important de noter que des plans sécuritaires robustes et efficaces seront en place en tout temps pour protéger le combustible nucléaire irradié sous la charge de la SGDN. Ces plans sont requis avant que la SGDN puisse obtenir des permis pour exploiter le dépôt ou pour transporter le combustible nucléaire irradié à l’installation. Le plan de sécurité assurera que le combustible nucléaire irradié reçoive une protection physique adéquate contre toute menace plausible. Le plan devra rencontrer les exigences des Règlements sur la sécurité nucléaire, qui mentionnent que les risques doivent être continuellement réévalués pour assurer que les mesures sécuritaires soient appropriées pour des cisconstances déterminées.

En réponse à votre question, il serait extrêmement difficile de faire une bombe en utilisant le combustible CANDU en raison d’un bon nombre de facteurs :

  • Le combustible nucléaire irradié est fortement radioactif, et un montant significatif
    d’équipement et de protection est nécessaire pour le manipuler
  • Toutes les grappes de combustible nucléaire sont soigneusement surveillées en tout temps par l’Agence internationale de l’énergie atomique – tout vol déclencherait une action sécuritaire significative
  • Plusieurs grappes de combustible (au moins 100) seraient requises pour avoir une quantité suffisante de plutonium. Ces 100 grappes pèsent environ deux tonnes sans protection.
  • Une usine de retraitement de combustible est nécessaire pour extraire le plutonium du combustible, et quoi qu’il en soit le plutonium extrait ne serait pas du matériel utilisable pour la fabrication d’armes. Une transformation plus poussée pour créer du matériel utilisable pour la fabrication d’armes est énormément complexe, difficile et dispendieuse.

Pour toutes ces raisons, il est probable que quiconque voudrait faire une bombe trouverait une façon moins exigeante de le faire.

Nous espérons que ces renseignements soient utiles. Si vous êtes intéressés dans des sources d’informations additionnelles, vous pouvez trouver de plus amples renseignements dans la FAQ nucléaire canadienne, tenue à jour par le Dr. Jeremy Whitlock à :
www.nuclearfaq.ca/cnf_sectionF.htm#x2.


August 2016

I heard that France and Russia are the two countries which can use nuclear fuel until it is no longer radioactive. They claim the fuel will still provide a lot of energy. Why can’t Canada do that?
We understand from your question that you are interested in the subject of reprocessing used nuclear fuel.

Reprocessing involves separating potentially fissile materials, such as plutonium, from used nuclear fuel by applying chemical and physical processes. The main reason to reprocess used nuclear fuel is to gain more energy from the original uranium and contribute to a country’s nuclear energy security.

Reprocessing is not done for waste management reasons because reprocessing by itself does not eliminate any of the radioactivity created in the used fuel. Instead, it merely separates and partitions it into several waste streams, including significant volumes of high, intermediate and low level radioactive waste. A portion of the recovered fissile material can then be further processed into new plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel and recycled into some current reactor types, including CANDU reactors, which are the type of reactor we have in Canada. MOX fuel is used once, then stored as radioactive waste. MOX fuel cannot be recycled again with today’s technology. It is important to note that the MOX fuel is more radioactive and generates more heat than the original used fuel and therefore is much more difficult to deal with than the original used fuel.

A few countries, such as France and Russia operate commercial reprocessing facilities. If you are interested, at the end of this note is a chart that shows the status of reprocessing in a number of countries around the world, as well as plans for managing waste.

Even for those countries that do reprocess their used nuclear fuel – like France and Russia – a deep geological repository like the one we are pursuing in Canada is still needed for long-term management of the MOX fuel and other residual high-level waste generated by reprocessing.

There is currently no plan in Canada to recycle our used nuclear fuel on a commercial scale, and it is not the intent of the NWMO to advocate one energy source or fuel cycle over another. In the future, if Canada chooses to revisit the issue of reprocessing it would be a joint decision by the nuclear energy producers, the associated provincial governments and the federal government – not the NWMO. These decisions would be subject to a separate regulatory process.

To help anticipate any changes in fuel cycles used in Canada and the types of waste that may need to be managed as a result, the NWMO keeps a watching brief on new developments. It is updated each year and posted on our web site.

Canada’s Adaptive Phased Management (APM) Plan, with the repository planned as its endpoint, meets the priority of Canadians to take action now to provide a long-term management approach for the used fuel currently stored in Canada on an interim basis at the reactor sites where it is generated. At the same time, the APM repository also provides for used fuel to be retrieved if necessary, for example if there is an opportunity to take advantage of new technologies.

Canada’s approach is consistent with best practice around the world. There is a consensus among major nuclear regulatory and monitoring organizations that, regardless of the type of fuel cycle, repositories are the responsible way forward. Almost all countries with commercial nuclear power production are planning to isolate the waste by-product of their nuclear fuel cycle in a deep geological repository, whether this is used fuel or high level waste from reprocessing.

Summary of Current Status of Reprocessing for the Nuclear Power Fuel Cycle

Country Commercial Scale Reprocessing Facility Currently Send Used Fuel for  Reprocessing in Other Country Decided to Cease Having Used Fuel Reprocessed Planning Direct Placement of Used Fuel in a Repository
Existing Planned
Belgium ü ü
Canada ü
China(3) ü ü (4)
Czech Republic ü(7) ü
Finland ü(7) ü
France(3) ü (2)
Germany ü ü
Hungary ü(7) ü
India(3) ü
Japan ü (6) ü
Korea, Rep. of ü
Mexico ü
Netherlands Until 2015(5) ü ü
Pakistan(3)
Romania ü
Russia(3) ü
Slovakia ü(7) ü
Slovenia ü
Spain ü
Sweden ü ü
Switzerland ü ü
United Kingdom(3) ü (1) ü ü
Ukraine ü(7) ü
USA(3) ü ü

 

(1)    UK plans to cease reprocessing at end of current contracts
(2)    EDF recently planned to cease reprocessing their used fuel  but were required to continue for national policy reasons
(3)    China/France/UK/Russia/US/Pakistan/India currently reprocess for military reasons
(4)    China plans direct placement of their CANDU used fuel in a repository
(5)    Used fuel sent to France for reprocessing
(6)    Facility has been constructed and is undergoing test operation, but policy currently under review
(7)    Some used fuel was sent to former Soviet Union for reprocessing.  Practice terminated at end of USSR era.

 

India is building a thorium plant where radioactive energy is emitted only when thorium is bombarded with particles and that it can be turned off or on with no long-term radiation hazards. Uranium reactors can be converted to thorium reactors and there is no danger of producing weapons from thorium. Can Canada do that?
CANDU nuclear reactors can potentially be adapted to utilize a variety of different fuel cycles, including thorium. A change such as this however would be a major shift in energy policy. Energy policy decisions are made by governments, utilities and regulators – not the NWMO. The NWMO does not take a position on the future of nuclear power in Canada.

It is also important to note, a decision to adapt Canadian reactors to a different fuel cycle does not eliminate the existing used fuel and the need for its safe long-term management. In accordance with the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act the NWMO is responsible for implementing Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel. The NWMO is focused on identifying a site where Canada’s used nuclear fuel can be safely contained and isolated in a deep geological repository. Canada’s Adaptive Phased Management (APM) Plan, with the repository planned as its endpoint, meets the priority of Canadians to take action now to provide a long-term management approach for the used fuel currently stored in Canada on an interim basis at the reactor sites where it is generated.

In a review of thorium reactors it is important to understand that used thorium fuel bundles are themselves highly radioactive, just like other types of used fuel. The specific radionuclides produced in thorium reactors are slightly different than in uranium reactors, but they still generate fission products, including long-lived ones that require safe long-term management in a deep geological repository. Thorium itself is not directly fissile. Thorium reactors convert the thorium to uranium (U-233, by neutron bombardment), then fission the uranium by further neutron bombardment. Turning off the neutron source (i.e. taking it out of the reactor) will stop the thorium to uranium conversion, but does not turn off the “radioactive energy” in the used fuel.

Also, regarding India and their interest in this technology, it is understood one of the main factors is they have large reserves of indigenous thorium and very little uranium.

If you are interested in more background information on Thorium & U-233 there are a number of available sources, such as:

There are also several International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) publications on the subject, such as:


March 2016

Recognizing Community Leadership
On January 22, 2015, the City of Elliot Lake announced that it had been identified, by the NWMO, as a focus for a Phase 2 assessment project in the North Huron Area. It was also announced at that time that as an acknowledgement of the City of Elliot Lake’s contribution to the implementation of Canada’s plan for the long-term storage of nuclear waste, that the NWMO would provide $400,000 to the City for the establishment of a Community Well-Being Reserve Fund.

On March 16, 2016 the following question was posed to Mayor Dan Marchisella:
Can you tell the citizens what has been done with the $400,000 and if the money has not been spent are there any plans for spending it in the near future?
Mayor Marchisella’s answer to the question:

“The $400k has been put into a Community Wellness Reserve Fund, and is collecting interest. The money has not been ear marked for any specific project nor has Council discussed what this money should be used for. There are many projects in our Strategic Plan that this could go toward, but it has not yet been debated. If it will not be used for a specific project, there is also the possibility to put the question out to the community.”


December 2015

Is the fuel flammable?
A CANDU used fuel bundle consists of uranium dioxide ceramic pellets encased in Zircaloy metal tubes. Practically speaking, a used fuel bundle is not flammable. It will not ignite or burn if you hold a match to it.

If exposed to temperature exceeding about 1000°C the Zircaloy tubing can burn. The uranium dioxide fuel pellets would oxidize (further) but not burn. The following explains the uranium fuel’s reaction.

The uranium dioxide fuel itself is already oxidized (UO2). This will convert to a more oxidized version (U3O8) on exposure to air. This reaction takes place very slowly at room temperature. It is similar to the way iron metal turns into iron oxide rust; it is not a flammable reaction. At higher temperatures, the oxidation reaction would proceed more quickly. However, the energy released is small, so the reaction would not be self-sustaining if the heat source was removed. There would be no flame. The uranium dioxide fuel would oxidize further but not burn.

What effect do you anticipate the sale of a majority of Hydro One will bring to bear on the management of the stored nuclear waste?
The sale of Hydro One will not have an effect on the management of stored nuclear waste. Hydro One is an electricity transmission and distribution utility serving Ontario. It is not a nuclear electricity producer and is not involved in nuclear waste management.
By way of background, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) was established in 2002 by Canada’s nuclear electricity producers in accordance with the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA). Operating on a not-for-profit basis under the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, the NWMO is responsible for designing and implementing Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel. Ontario Power Generation, New Brunswick Power Corporation and Hydro Quebec are the founding members of the NWMO, and along with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited are required to fund the NWMO’s operations.

How many spent nuclear fuel rods are in Canada now in dry storage? How many fuel rods are ready to be put into dry storage in Canada each year? When will the proposed repository be full?
For decades, Canadians have been using electricity generated by CANDU nuclear power reactors in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. Currently, Canadian reactors produce about 90,000 used CANDU fuel bundles per year.

As of June 30, 2015, Canada’s commercial nuclear reactors have produced about 3,100 terawatt hours of electricity and just over 2.6 million used fuel bundles. In addition there are small quantities of used research and development fuels in a licensed facility at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. If used nuclear fuel bundles could be stacked like cordwood, all Canada’s used nuclear fuel could fit in about seven hockey rinks, reaching from the ice surface to the top of the boards. This used nuclear fuel is safely stored at the sites where it is produced in facilities licensed by the national regulatory, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

During the operations phase of the project, used nuclear fuel will be moved to the repository. If Canada’s existing reactors operate to the end of their planned current lives, including planned refurbishments, the inventory of used fuel that will need to be managed in the facility could be about 4.6 million bundles, depending on future operating experience. Based on this inventory, we expect this phase could take about 40 years.

Does the surface area of the repository have to be completely cleared?
Thank you for your interest in Canada’s plan for the safe long-term management of used nuclear fuel. The short answer to your question is that the area that would host surface facilities would need to be cleared, whereas the balance of the land above the repository may not need to be cleared.

Surface facilities for the deep geological repository are designed to provide processes and equipment for receiving, inspecting, repackaging and moving used fuel to the main shaft for transfer underground and placement in the repository. The design of the surface facilities at this early stage is conceptual, and many details will depend on the characteristics of the site selected. The NWMO has developed a “reference design” as a basis for planning and costing and as a starting point for more detailed discussion with communities involved in the site selection process.

Based on the conceptual design, the surface facilities would require a dedicated surface area of about 650 metres by 550 metres for the main buildings and about 100 metres by 170 metres for the ventilation exhaust shaft, which will be located approximately two kilometers away from the main buildings. The surface facility areas will be secure areas. The conceptual design is shown in the NWMO’s Description of a Deep Geological Repository and Centre of Expertise for Canada’s Used Nuclear Fuel brochure. http://www.nwmo.ca/brochures

The underground repository itself will occupy a subsurface area of approximately 2 kilometres by 3 kilometres. We expect land above the underground footprint that is not required for the surface facilities or to meet regulatory requirements would be available for other uses. The NWMO will have to demonstrate that regulatory or other requirements for safety that could limit those activities in the immediate area surrounding the surface facilities have been met.

What is the role of the municipality in the NWMO siting process for a potential suitable site on neighbouring Crown land and what about Treaty rights on this land?

Communities that entered the site selection process expressed interest in learning more about the APM Project and in exploring whether the project could be implemented in their community or area. The NWMO initiated studies to explore the potential to meet the robust requirements of the project.

In the early stages, a priority was put on exploring the potential to find suitable rock that can contain and isolate used nuclear fuel for the time periods required. These studies followed the outline of rock formations in and near these communities. In some cases these rock formations extend beyond municipal boundaries and into Crown land. In several areas, this process has led to the identification of potentially suitable Crown land.

Although individual communities initiated a process that led to identification of Crown Land, the site selection process requires that those potentially affected through the implementation of the project on that land must be involved in learning and decision-making. The preliminary assessment process examines the potential to not only meet safety criteria but also to move the project forward together with those who would be affected.

Currently the NWMO is actively working with Federal, Aboriginal and provincial governments to better understand how issues of jurisdiction, land claims and rights might impact our work as we progress through the steps in the site selection process. The NWMO does not have jurisdiction over any land and understands jurisdictional matters are between First Nations and the Crown, and will be decided by them. The NWMO understands that eventually the Crown’s duty to consult will arise.

The NWMO’s commitment to inclusiveness, shared decision-making and partnership goes beyond consultation and accommodation. In discussions with Aboriginal people, they have been clear that they want to be engaged before major projects are undertaken in their areas; not after the fact. The NWMO process does exactly that – there is no specific proposal on the table yet, and the NWMO is engaging Aboriginal people years in advance to learn how APM might be implemented in a way that enhances their long-term well-being and addresses their concerns and questions.

The NWMO has been clear that if safe sites are identified in any area, the project can only move ahead in partnership – not only with the community that first asked us to consider the area, but also with First Nation and Métis communities and other municipalities in the vicinity.


October 2015

Can you tell me about the two repository projects and the differences between them?

The OPG Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) project is for the long-term management of low and intermediate level waste (L&ILW). Low-level waste includes items used at nuclear facilities, like mop heads, gloves, clothes, and floor sweepings. Intermediate-level waste includes used filters and resins, and reactor components.

In May 2015 the Joint Review Panel, issued the Environmental Assessment Report recommending approval of the Deep Geologic Repository for Ontario’s low and intermediate level waste to the federal government. The EA Report has been presented to the Minister of the Environment who will consider the recommendation and make a decision. The site of Ontario Power Generation’s proposed L&ILW DGR project is at the Bruce nuclear site, in Kincardine, Ontario.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is implementing Adaptive Phased Management (APM) – Canada’s long-term management plan for used fuel. Elliot lake is one of nine communities currently involved in the early stages of the process for selecting a safe site with an informed and willing host for a deep geological repository to contain and isolate Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

OPG’s L&ILW DGR and the NWMO’s APM  approach for all of Canada’s used nuclear fuel are two separate and distinct projects. There are several reasons for this:

  • The implementation of two separate facilities for the waste streams is consistent with the federal Radioactive Waste Management Policy Framework. Waste owners such as OPG  are accountable for the low and intermediate level waste they create. The  federal government is responsible for overseeing Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel through the NWMO;
  • Separate facilities are needed because the requirements for handling and storing low and intermediate level waste, and used nuclear fuel are different. Waste management operations for receiving, processing, and placement of the waste in underground rooms is different for the two waste streams.
  • Canada is following internationally accepted practice – most other countries pursuing geological repositories for used fuel and low and intermediate level waste are keeping the two facilities separate.

September 2015

 

How many sites (cities, towns, etc) will be chosen to build a Centre of Expertise?

A Centre of Expertise will be established in the area selected for detailed evaluation – Step 4 of the nine-step siting process. It is currently assumed there will be one centre of expertise, or possibly two if two areas advance to Step 4.

The centre will be located in or near the community, as determined with the community. Its purpose will be to support the multi-year testing and assessment of the site on technical safety and community wellbeing related dimensions, which are key components of the site selection process. It will be the home for an active technical and social research and technology demonstration program during this period, involving scientists and other experts in a wide variety of disciples, including geosciences, engineering, and environmental, socioeconomic and cultural impact assessment.

The design details of the centre of expertise would be developed with the community, affected Aboriginal peoples and surrounding communities, with their preferences in mind. The centre of expertise could be designed as a focus for engaging members of the community to learn more about the project, and to view the scientific and engineering work-in- progress involved in site assessment, through public viewing galleries and interactive displays.

Eventually, the centre of expertise would be expanded to include and support the construction and operation of an underground facility designed to confirm the characteristics of the site. The centre of expertise would become a hub for knowledge sharing across Canada and internationally.

This information is outlined in our latest implementation plan, which was published in March of this year. The plan is regularly assessed, strengthened and redirected as appropriate – we publish a draft for public input each year in the fall and the final updated plan the following March. These documents can provide a helpful way to stay in touch with how plans are advancing related to the Centre of Expertise and other aspects of Canada’s plan for used nuclear fuel. You can find them on our web site: www.nwmo.ca/implementationplan.

While “rods” are in storage, would lead (pb) be used as an info, that is, since this metal will absorb uranium’s energy, it could be used to analize what degree of radiation is occurring (taking the lead sheets out, on occasion, and measuring what amounts of energy is occurring within the area of storage).

Thank you for your question. The amount of energy coming from the used fuel is predictable, and can be readily calculated. We would nonetheless take some measurements as confirmation. During the handling of the used fuel and containers before emplacement, we would use standard radiation detection instruments, such as gamma spectrometers that provide precise measurements on the nature and amount of radiation. After the used fuel containers have been placed within a room underground, we would monitor the total amount of decay energy through measuring the temperature around the emplacement rooms. This would give us the amount of energy occurring within that area without requiring us to remove material for analysis.

There will be a radiation protection program in effect during operations that requires radiation and contamination monitors to be placed around the rooms underground and through the facility. These monitors will be used to monitor and trend any changes in background radiation levels.
Sincerely,
NWMO


The following is in response to a request from the Elliot Lake Waterfront Owners Association for a short written update on the status of the NWMO’s Adaptive Phased Management process in the Elliot Lake area at its AGM to be held August 02, 2015. The NWMO project was introduced to ELWOA via a presentation/discussion with Norman Sandberg of the NWMO.

NWMO Update For Elliot Lake Waterfront Owners Association Annual General Meeting August 02, 2015

Much has happened with the NWMO’s Adaptive Phased Management Programme in the Elliot Lake area since we last met at the ELWOA AGM in August of 2014.

Throughout the balance of 2014, the NWMO continued to work on the Preliminary Assessment Phase 1 studies. These studies, conducted collaboratively with each community, are the first phase of a multiyear process for assessing potential suitability to host a deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel. Safety of people and the environment is the primary siting consideration.

Through desktop study and early dialogues, Phase 1 Assessments examined geological settings, environment and safety, engineering and transportation, and the project’s potential impact on community well-being.

In January and February 2015 the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) completed the first phase of Preliminary Assessment for eight communities in Northern Ontario and Saskatchewan that expressed interest in learning about Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel. Based on work undertaken collaboratively with each community, the City of Elliot Lake, Town of Blind River, and Townships of Manitouwadge and White River are assessed as having strong potential to meet site selection requirements and have been identified for further study. The Towns of Schreiber, Spanish, Township of The North Shore and the Town of Creighton Saskatchewan were not selected to be the focus of more detailed study.

Preliminary findings to date do not confirm technical suitability and safety of any site, and at this early point in the process no community is asked to confirm its willingness to host the project. These findings do not affect work ongoing in other Ontario communities involved in the site selection process. It is expected to take several more years to complete the necessary studies to identify a preferred site and an informed and willing host.

At present, nine communities remain in the NWMO’s APM process, all in Phase 2 of Preliminary Assessments. These communities are:

  • Blind River
  • Brockton
  • Elliot Lake
  • Hornepayne
  • Huron-Kinloss
  • Ignace
  • Manitouwadge
  • South Bruce
  • White River

It will take several more years of detailed technical, scientific and social study and assessments, and much more engagement with interested communities, First Nation and Métis communities and their neighbours before a preferred safe site for the project can be confirmed.

The next phase of study involves preliminary fieldwork, more engagement in the community and surrounding region, and regular stock-taking of both technical and social potential for identifying a suitable repository site.

Preliminary fieldwork, such as geophysical surveys, geological mapping and eventually borehole drilling, will further assess geology and site suitability against technical safety requirements. We do not anticipate the aerial surveys to begin until the Fall of 2015 or, most likely, the Spring of 2016. Boreholes are not anticipated until much later in the process.

Much more engagement with community members, potentially affected First Nation and Métis people and neighboring municipalities is needed to understand the level of interest and support for the project in each area, and the potential for the project to enhance community well-being.

Resources will be made available to these communities to help facilitate engagement and learning.

The NWMO will continue to narrow its focus gradually over the course of Phase 2 to areas with the strongest potential to host the project.

There will be regular review of study findings by the NWMO and the communities; if findings emerge that suggest a community has low potential to meet siting requirements, studies will be concluded.

At this milestone as communities complete Phase 1 assessments, the NWMO is recognizing the contribution made by those communities that requested preliminary assessments to advancing Canada’s plan for managing used nuclear fuel over the long term.

This recognition is through a contribution of $400,000 by the NWMO to a Community Well-Being Fund established by the Council of each of the communities. The intent of this contribution is to assist the individual community with initiatives that will enhance its well-being, as defined by the community.

Through their multi-year participation, each community has built understanding of the project, and helped shape and deliver engagement and ensure meaningful involvement of citizens.

Through their leadership, these communities advanced this major national project on behalf of all Canadians.

Each community has helped design and lead dialogues to ensure important questions about safety are asked and learning continues.

By working within their communities and through early outreach to neighbours and potentially affected First Nations and Métis communities, they underscored the importance of working together and helped set the stage for the next several years of study.

In 2013 we recognized in the same way eight other communities that reached this milestone.

For more information, we invite you to contact us at:
NWMO Learn More Centre
White Mountain Building
99 Spine Road, 1st Floor
Elliot Lake, ON
P5A 3S9
(705) 461-7878
elliotlakeclc@bellnet.ca
http://clcinfo.ca/elliotlake/


Questions July 2015

Do we get a vote in the end?
The Government of Canada selected Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel in June 2007. The approach, called Adaptive Phased Management (APM), calls for the centralized containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel in a repository deep underground in a suitable rock formation and a national centre of expertise, with an informed and willing host.
Best practice and experience suggest there are a range of approaches a community may use to demonstrate its willingness in a compelling way. These include documented support expressed through open community discussions or town hall meetings, a telephone poll, online meetings or surveys and/or a formal referendum. New approaches may also emerge over the intervening years as societal expectations and decision-making processes continue to evolve. Communities will be encouraged to identify processes which both meet the specific needs of the community and demonstrate clearly to the NWMO whether the project has the support of residents. A demonstration of willingness is not expected to be required for several years. We expect that communities will want to see the results of detailed studies so they can make an informed decision.

Does the whole fuel bundle (c/w rods and fuel pellets) get buried in DGR?
Yes. In fact, the fuel pellets and fuel bundles are an important part of the multiple-barrier system that will be used to contain and isolate used nuclear fuel. Each barrier provides a unique and stand-alone level of protection – if any of the barriers deteriorate, the next one will come into play:

  • Barrier 1: The Used Nuclear Fuel Pellet – Used nuclear fuel is in the form of a ceramic pellet. The pellets are extremely durable.
  • Barrier 2: The Fuel Element and the Fuel Bundle – Sealed tubes contain the fuel pellets; these are called fuel elements. The tubes are made of a corrosion-resistant metal called Zircaloy.
  • Barrier 3: The Used Nuclear Fuel Container – Used fuel bundles will be placed into large specially designed containers to contain and isolate the fuel for 100,000 years or more. The container is made from thick steel, which provides the mechanical strength to withstand the pressures of the overlying rock and future glaciations. The outermost layer of the container is copper, which is resistant to corrosion in the deep underground environment.
  • Barrier 4: Bentonite Clay, Backfill and Sealants – In the repository, each container will be surrounded by bentonite clay, a natural material proven to be an effective sealing material. As placement rooms are filled with containers, they will be backfilled and sealed. The access tunnels and shafts will be backfilled and sealed only when the community, the NWMO and regulators agree that it is appropriate, and post-closure monitoring will then be implemented.
  • Barrier 5: The Geosphere – The repository will be approximately 500 metres underground. It will be excavated within a suitable sedimentary or crystalline rock formation. The geosphere forms a natural barrier of rock, which will protect the repository from disruptive natural events and human intrusion. It will also maintain favourable conditions for the container and seals, as well as limit movement of radionuclides in the unlikely event that barriers fail.

For more information about the multiple-barrier system, we would encourage you to review thebackgrounder on this topic we have posted on our website at: www.nwmo.ca/backgrounders.

After the DGR is filled, there is an extended monitoring period of 50 years or more.
Who decides if this is enough?
Following placement of used fuel containers in the repository, the facility will continue to be
monitored for an extended period of time. The NWMO will work with the community and others to monitor and study the long-term safety and performance of the repository system. The extended monitoring phase could last several decades. The actual duration will be decided many decades from now in collaboration with the community and regulatory authorities.

Will there be long-term research jobs?
Yes, implementing Canada’s plan for the safe long-term management of used nuclear fuel will directly involve a large number of scientists as well as engineers, professionals, trades people and other workers to support he deep geological repository and centre of expertise. A Centre of expertise will be established in communities selected for detailed evaluation in the later stages of the site selection process. Its purpose will be to support the multi-year testing and assessment of the site on technical safety and community well-being related dimensions, which are key components of the site selection process. It will be the home for an active technical and social research and technology demonstration program during this period, involving scientists and other experts in a wide variety of disciplines, including geosciences, engineering, and environmental, socioeconomic and cultural impact assessment. Once a site is selected to host the deep geological repository, the Centre of Expertise would be expanded to support site verification,
construction and operation activities, and become a hub for knowledge sharing across Canada and internationally.

When is the next NWMO Open House?
Elliot Lake and Spanish will have concurrent Open Houses May 20th and 21st. Blind River and The North Shore will have concurrent Open Houses May 26th and 27th.

How will the used fuel be transported?
The safe and secure transportation of used nuclear fuel from interim storage facilities to a deep geological repository is a top priority in Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel. Around the world, used nuclear fuel has been transported safely for more than 50 years by road, rail and water.
It is expected to take several more years to complete the necessary studies to identify a
preferred site and an informed and willing host for Canada’s used fuel repository. At this early stage of assessment, the NWMO is looking at road and rail access from the interim storage sites to communities that are engaged in the site selection process.
As the site selection process advances, the NMO will identify preferred transportation modes and potential routes with each potential host under consideration. The mode of used fuel transport, potential routes and the safety and social acceptability of the transportation system will be fully addressed through engagement during the siting process and through the environmental assessment and licensing process for the long-term Management facility.

Will there be security guards accompanying the shipments? – Will be determined
by the CNSC at the time of licensing.
Security measures will be put in place to assure the used nuclear fuel to be transported will be protected against any credible threats. These measures include agreements with different levels of law enforcement. Shipments of used nuclear fuel will be continuously monitored by a transportation command centre and will have a security escort.

How many shipments a day will there be?
Once the repository is operational many years from now, the number of shipments per year would be approximately 620 by road, averaging less than two per day. If rail is ued, there would be approximately 60 shipments per year of about 10 packages per train, averaging one shipment every six days.

The roads get very dangerous during the winter. Is truck transport really the smart
thing to do? – Transportation requirements will be determined at the time of
licensing. It is likely that truck transportation will not take place if the forecast
calls for bad weather (winter storms, ice etc).
Used fuel shipments will not be made in unfavourable weather or poor road conditions. Prior to each shipment, the regulations require the shipper to confirm that the receiver is willing and prepared to receive the used fuel shipment. This confirmation will include an assessment of anticipated weather and road conditions along the planned route. Once in transit, transport personnel will remain in frequent contact with the shipper, receiver, and local authorities and response forces along the route via a central command centre operated by the NWMO.

Will the NWMO rebuild Highway 108?
Any requirement for infrastructure improvements can only be confirmed once a potential site for a repository is identified.


 

Why is it taking so long?

The NWMO expects the site selection process will require several more years of ongoing and increasingly more detailed assessment before a preferred site at a specific location can be identified and discussed with a community. Several years are required to confirm all aspects of technical safety; understand potential social, economic, cultural and environmental effects of the project; and determine community willingness. A review of similar projects in other jurisdictions shows “best practice” indicates much time is required for people to learn about the project, to ask questions and to assess their interest in it.

Currently, Elliot Lake and 8 other Ontario communities remain engaged in the process for selecting a safe site with an informed and willing host for a deep geological repository to contain and isolate Canada’s used nuclear fuel. The majority of these communities, including Elliot Lake, are in the second phase of preliminary assessment. Preliminary assessments are the third of nine steps in the site selection process. If you are interested you can read more about the nine-step process on the NWMO’s web site: www.nwmo.ca/sitingprocess_thesteps.


Could the product shipped to be stored underground in the deep nuclear repository be of use to terrorists to make bombs?

First, it is important to note that robust and effective security plans will be in place at all times to protect used nuclear fuel under the NWMO’s care. These plans are required before the NWMO can obtain licenses to operate the repository or to transport used nuclear fuel to the facility. The security plan will ensure used nuclear fuel receives adequate physical protection against any credible threat. It will need to meet the requirements of the Nuclear Security Regulations, which specify that risks need to be continually reassessed to ensure that security measures are appropriate for specific circumstances.

In response to your question, it would be extremely difficult to make a bomb using CANDU fuel. There are a number of factors that make it difficult:

  • Used nuclear fuel is highly radioactive, and a significant amount of equipment and shielding is needed to safely work with it.
  • All used nuclear fuel bundles are carefully monitored at all times by the International Atomic Energy Agency – any theft would trigger significant security action.
  • Many fuel bundles (at least 100) would be needed to have a sufficient quantity of plutonium. These 100 bundles weigh about two tonnes without shielding.
  • A fuel reprocessing plant is needed to extract plutonium from the fuel, and even then the extracted plutonium would not be weapons-grade material. Further processing to create weapons-grade material is enormously complex, difficult and expensive.

For all of these reasons, it is likely anyone looking to make a bomb would find an easier way.

We hope you find this information helpful. If you are interested in additional sources of information, you can find more on this topic in The Canadian Nuclear FAQ, maintained by Dr. Jeremy Whitlock at www.nuclearfaq.ca/cnf_sectionF.htm#x2.


Do you have any questions about used nuclear fuel, or the APM plan?

Looking for comment or answer to the paragraph in attached article in regards to the failure of containment releasing radioactive materials into the landscape and some radioactive elements have a half life exceeding the containers life span.

Article: Cache-22 TheWalrus.ca A hard-luck town competes for Canada’s nuclear waste, by: Connor Mihell

Paragraph mentioned: The risk, of course, is that the containment will somehow fail, releasing radioactive materials into the landscape and poisoning humans and wildlife, not only the vicinity but throughout the Great Lakes watershed. Anti-nuke organizations point out that since some of the radioactive elements have a half-life that exceeds the lifespan of the containers, this apocalyptic chain of events could even be inevitable. A previous proposal failed a 1998 Canadian environmental assessment due to lack of public support, and a large-scale underground repository has never been tried anywhere else in the world.

Canada’s plan for managing used nuclear fuel over the long term relies on a multi-barrier system to isolate and contain the used fuel from humans and the environment.  A series of engineered and natural barriers will work together to contain and isolate used nuclear fuel from the biosphere. Each of these barriers provides a unique and stand-alone level of protection – if any of the barriers deteriorate, the next one will come into play.

The first barrier is the fuel itself, which contains over 99 percent of the radioactivity.  It is made of an extremely durable hard, high-density ceramic material which does not readily dissolve in water.  Fuel elements which are made of a strong, corrosion-resistant metal called Zircaloy contain the pellets provide the second barrier.

Used nuclear fuel bundles will be placed within a third barrier – large, very durable containers with an inner vessel made from 100-millimetre-thick steel, which provides the mechanical strength to withstand the pressures of the overlying rock and future glacial loading. The outermost layer of the container is corrosion-resistant copper. The container prevents water from reaching the used nuclear fuel bundles, preventing radionuclides in the fuel from escaping into the underground environment. The container is engineered to remain intact for at least 100,000 years, and expected to last much longer, keeping the used nuclear fuel completely isolated from the surroundings.

After the used nuclear fuel containers are placed in the repository, all open spaces in each underground chamber will be filled with engineered materials designed to minimize any seeping of water through the repository.  During placement, each used nuclear fuel container will be surrounded by compacted bentonite clay, a natural material proven to be a powerful barrier to water flow. Bentonite swells when exposed to water, making an excellent sealing material. Bentonite is also very stable, typically formed millions to hundreds of millions of years ago, such as in several large deposits in western North America.  As placement rooms are filled with containers, the open spaces will be filled with engineered materials – backfill and sealants made from mixtures of clay, sand and rock – to minimize the flow of water. Once completely filled, placement rooms will be sealed with bulkheads of special, high-performance concrete.

The final, and most important, barrier is the geosphere itself.  The repository will be approximately 500 metres underground – the exact depth will depend on the site.  It will be excavated within a suitable sedimentary or crystalline rock formation.  The geosphere forms a natural barrier of rock, which will protect the repository from disruptive natural events and human intrusion. It will also help maintain favourable conditions for long-term containment and isolation of the used nuclear fuel, as well as limit movement of any radionuclides if other barriers fail.

You can read a backgrounder about the multi-barrier system posted on the NWMO website at:  http://www.nwmo.ca/backgrounders. For a much more detailed assessment of the multi-barrier system, please refer to the following technical report:  Used Fuel Repository Conceptual Design and Postclosure Safety Assessment in Crystalline Rock.  It is available on the website at: http://www.nwmo.ca/uploads/File/NWMO-TR-2012-16_4CS-Pre-project-Report_FinalforWebsite.pdf


For reference, here are the questions we received (responses below):

  • When are you going to start project?
  • We need the project to start soon!
  • I like to know where you plan to build the underground canyon?
  • A map would be nice to show where.
  • I would like to see that a rail-line get constructed from Trans Canada highway with a bridge across 17. This is during construction of site and transport of fuel rod  later. Otherwise 108 will be busy with traffic.

Thank you for your recent visit to the NWMO’s office in Elliot Lake. We appreciate your interest in Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization appreciates your taking time to share your views with us.  All comments we receive are taken into account and help inform our work.

By way of background, the Government of Canada selected Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel in June 2007. The approach, called Adaptive Phased Management (APM), calls for the centralized containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel in a repository deep underground in a suitable rock formation and a national centre of expertise, with an informed and willing host.

Elliot Lake is one of 15 communities currently involved in the early stages of the process for selecting a site. Over time and through increasingly detailed studies it will become clearer which communities have the strongest potential to safely host the project. Only communities that are interested in the project, and that have expressed this interest, will be considered. Canada’s deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel will not be imposed on any community.

You mentioned transportation (rail transportation, specifically).  The transportation system is an important component of Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel. For a potential host location a repository to be considered technically feasible, it must be accessible by safe and secure routes for the transportation of used nuclear fuel from interim storage facilities in Canada. Stringent regulatory requirements must be met before used nuclear fuel can be transported; the NWMO will need to demonstrate to regulatory authorities the safety and security of a transportation system before shipments of used fuel can begin.  As studies become increasingly detailed in the coming years, potential transportation routes and modes to each site will be identified against technical safety criteria. Transportation planning and evaluations also need to be aligned with community input, which requires taking into account social values and preferences, as well as understanding and addressing social questions and concerns.

Regarding timing, Canada’s plan will be implemented in phases and operate for many decades. Below is a brief summary of what each phase involves, and estimates of how long each phase might take. For more details, we would encourage you to review the document Description of Canada’s Repository for Used Nuclear Fuel and Centre of Expertise, which is posted on our Web site along with a number of other brochures about various aspects of the project: www.nwmo.ca/brochures

Site selection and Regulatory Approvals (approximately 12 to 15 years)

In collaboration with the community, the NWMO will conduct detailed studies and evaluations at the site to confirm whether it is suitable in terms of safety and community well-being, and to support the regulatory approval process. Site selection is a nine-step process, which you can read more about on our Web site:  www.nwmo.ca/sitingprocess_overview5. We are in the very early stages of this work today, and expect it will take several more years.

Once a location has been selected as the preferred site, the NWMO must successfully complete an environmental assessment, as required by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and obtain a licence from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for site preparation and construction. We expect this work will take approximately five years.

Construction of the Underground Demonstration Facility and Deep Geological Repository (approximately 10 years)

After receiving agreement from a willing host community, successful completion of an environmental assessment review and receiving site preparation and construction licences from the CNSC, construction of the project can begin.

Operation of the Facilities (approximately 40 years or more)

After receiving agreement from the community and an operating licence from the CNSC, operation of the facility can begin.

Extended Monitoring (potentially 70 years or more)

The NWMO will work with the community and others to conduct monitoring of the repository to support data collection and to confirm the long-term safety and performance of the repository system. Future society will determine the appropriate form and duration of monitoring. The regulator will be involved in all decisions made about how monitoring will be conducted at the site.

Decommissioning and Closure of the Facility (approximately 30 years)

The NWMO will work with the community and others to decommission the facilities. Future society will determine the manner of final closure of the repository. Once a decision is made to close the facility, the NWMO will apply to the CNSC for a decommissioning licence, and an environmental assessment would be conducted. The NWMO will remove underground equipment, and backfill and seal the access tunnels and shafts. Surface facilities will also be dismantled at a pace and in a manner determined collaboratively with the community, regulators and other interested individuals.

Postclosure Monitoring (to be determined)

Future society will determine the form and duration of monitoring to take place after the repository is closed. The regulator will be involved in all decisions about how monitoring will be conducted at the site.

We trust you find this information helpful. Thank you again for your interest.


If a local Elliot Lake mine is selected, how would you handle the water in this mine that is contaminated with uranium leachate?

Thank you for your interest in Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel.

Old mines are not being considered as potential sites for a repository. The safety and appropriateness of any potential site is assessed against a number of factors. One of the criteria a potential site has to meet is that available land must not contain economically exploitable natural resources as known today, so that the repository site is unlikely to be disturbed by future generations. In that context, abandoned mines are likely to contain residual resources that could become economically exploitable in the future. Also, the presence of natural resources is often associated with geologies that are not favourable for the long-term containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel, such as the presence of fractures.

By way of background, the Government of Canada selected Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel in June 2007. The approach, called Adaptive Phased Management (APM), calls for the centralized containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel in a repository deep underground in a suitable rock formation and a national centre of expertise, with an informed and willing host.

The process for identifying an informed and willing host community for a deep geological repository is designed to ensure, above all, that the site selected is safe and secure for people and the environment, now and in the future. Detailed field investigations involving geophysical surveys, characterization of the existing environment, drilling and sampling of boreholes, ¬field and laboratory testing, and monitoring activities will be conducted during site characterization to affirm the suitability of the site. The NWMO will be required to demonstrate the safety of the repository and its components to the satisfaction of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in order to receive a licence to construct the facility.

If you’d like to learn more about Adaptive Phased Management and the process being implemented to identify an informed and willing host community for a deep geological repository, we encourage you to check our web site at: www.nwmo.ca/sitingprocess

Sincerely,

NWMO


Why are they looking at us? Don’t we have enough environmental impact from the past mines (railings, radiation). Which has already been put back to nature. I’ve already been on 2 “decommissioning of the mines tours”. What is the process and where are they now looking or settling on, to dump the nuclear wastes.

Thank you for taking the time to contact the NWMO.

By way of background, the Government of Canada selected Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel in June 2007. The approach, called Adaptive Phased Management (APM), calls for the centralized containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel in a repository deep underground in a suitable rock formation and a national centre of expertise, with an informed and willing host.

In May 2010, the NWMO launched a nine-step process to identify a safe location and an informed and willing host for these facilities. You can read more about this process on our Web site: www.nwmo.ca/sitingprocess_overview5. The objective of the process is to arrive at a single location that will ensure safety, security and protection of people and the environment over the long term. Only communities that are interested in the project, and that have expressed this interest, will be considered. A community will proceed from one step to the next only if it chooses to do so and if the work to assess the suitability of the site supports it.

Elliot Lake is one of 15 communities currently involved in learning more about APM and the site selection process. At this early stage, no specific sites have been identified. Over time and through increasingly detailed studies, it will become clearer which communities have the strongest potential to safely host the project. The preferred site must meet robust technical requirements focused on safety, for people and the environment. In addition to meeting strict technical criteria, any potential site must also be considered an appropriate location for the facility by the community and that the project be implemented in a way that will help foster long-term well-being and sustainability.

Safety, security and protection of people and the environment are central to the siting process. The NWMO will ultimately have to demonstrate these characteristics in any proposal submitted for regulatory review, and the regulator will determine if a licence may be issued for the project to proceed. The project will only be implemented in an area where robust safety requirements can be satisfied and community well-being fostered.

If you would like to learn more about APM or the site selection process, we would encourage you to visit our web site at www.nwmo.ca or contact us at learnmore@nwmo.ca for more information.
Thank you again for your interest, and please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any additional information.

Yours sincerely,

NWMO


Do you have a decay table similar to the attached for nuclear waste decay. Could I have one

The NWMO Web site there is a report called Data for Radionuclide and Chemical Element Screening (NWMO TR-2012-11), which has appendices that have information on various decay chains, radionuclide inventories and radionuclide half-lives.  To create this list, we first screened out short lived radionuclides – this left 251 remaining out of > 1000 in the fuel to start with.  This document has data on the 251.  You can view the report by clicking ‘view file’ on this web page: www.nwmo.ca/publications?media_file_id=2069.

The person who asked the question provided an example pertaining to the 4n+2 uranium chain.  If the questioner wants information on the other uranium chains (i.e., the 4n, 4n+1, 4n+3), this can be found on the internet, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decay_chain

We hope this information is helpful.

Sincerely,

NWMO


It is well understood that Elliot Lake, as well as other communities, who have participated in the NWMO search for a Deep Earth Nuclear Waste Repository, are to receive a $400K cash infusion: if and when they (participating community) fail to progress through the NWMO selection process. This, in all likelihood, will have been the result of geological conditions that do not meet NWMO stringent requirements. Has Elliot Lake received this $400K cash infusion? Has Elliot Lake, in partnership, been eliminated from the competition for the Deep Earth Nuclear Waste Repository?

Elliot Lake is one of 14 communities currently involved in learning more about Canada’s plan for managing used nuclear fuel and the site selection process. Over time and through increasingly detailed studies, it will become clearer which communities have strong potential to safely host the project. The preferred site must meet robust technical requirements focused on safety to protect people and the environment over the very long term. In addition to meeting strict technical criteria, any potential site must also be considered an appropriate location for the facility by people in the area. The project must be implemented in a way that will help foster long-term well-being.

In 2012, Elliot Lake requested that a preliminary assessment be conducted to assess potential suitability of the area for to meet requirements of the project. Preliminary assessment work is conducted in two phases, with regular opportunities for stock-taking by both the community and the NWMO. The first phase of this work is underway in Elliot Lake. This first phase of Preliminary Assessment involves desktop studies and engagement only.  These studies are designed to explore the potential to meet safety requirements and foster community well-being. As Phase 1 studies are completed, they will be used to guide identification of a smaller number of areas to proceed for further study. We expect this phase of work to be completed in Elliot Lake by early 2015.

Once this first phase of study is complete, and if the Elliot Lake area is identified for more detailed study in the second phase of assessment, initial field studies would be undertaken to further assess potential suitability and identify specific siting areas that have the potential to meet the NWMO’s technical site evaluation factors. Over the next three to four or more years findings from Phase 2 assessments in the areas involved in the site selection process will guide the NWMO’s identification of one or possibly two sites to be the focus of detailed site evaluations in Step 4 of the process. These will be sites with strong potential to meet requirements for hosting the facilities.

At the end of the first phase of assessment, the NWMO will contribute $400,000 to each community, whether or not it has been identified for the next phase of studies, upon establishment of a Community Well-Being Reserve Fund. This contribution is made in recognition of the strong leadership the communities that requested Phase 1 studies have shown on behalf of all Canadians. Over several years of participation in the process, they have effectively paved the way for the safe and secure long-term management of used nuclear fuel in Canada.

Administered by the communities, these funds support continuing efforts to build community sustainability and well-being. Examples of activities that could be supported include projects, programs or services for community youth; scholarship programs for community youth; projects, programs or services for community seniors; projects or programs to support community sustainability; projects or programs to support community economic development; and projects or programs to support energy efficiency. Other communities have been similarly recognized upon completion of their Phase 1 studies. For more information, we encourage you to review information about this recognition on our web site: www.nwmo.ca/sitingprocess_recognition.

If you would like, we would be happy to add your e-mail or mailing information to our mailing list to help you continue to stay up to date on the site selection process. You can send your information to us at learnmore@nwmo.ca.

We hope you find this information helpful,

Sincerely,
NWMO


What safety precautions are in place for transportation of used fuel?

Safety is built into every element of the system for transporting used nuclear fuel, beginning with the design of the transportation package. The package is engineered to withstand extreme conditions without releasing its contents. The current package is made of a solid stainless steel box with walls nearly 30 centimetres thick and a lid attached by 32 bolts. It has been designed to meet a series of challenging performance requirements – specified by CNSC regulations and based on international standards — to demonstrate the ability to withstand severe impact, fire and immersion in water.

Transportation of used nuclear fuel is jointly regulated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and Transport Canada, and regulations reflect stringent standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). There is a strong international track record in transporting used nuclear fuel safely. Over 50 years, there have been more than 20,000 shipments of used nuclear fuel worldwide, by road, rail and water transport with no serious injuries, fatalities, or environmental consequences attributable to the radioactive nature of the used nuclear fuel being transported.

Much more information is available about the Safe and Secure Transportation of Canada’s Used Nuclear Fuel in the two brochures on this topic on the NWMO web site: www.nwmo.ca/brochures. We would encourage you to review these if you are interested in more detail.


Will it be during the day when there is lots of traffic on the roads or at night when the animals are out?

The NWMO is currently in the very early stages of a multi-year site selection process. A significant amount of work has to be done before we can identify specific routes, modes, and schedules.


Any plans to re-cycle used fuel? Hear that new technology and science is working to do just that with future nuclear reactors.

In June 2007 the Government of Canada selected Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel. The plan, known as Adaptive Phased Management (APM), emerged from a three year study of options.  Led by the NWMO, the study engaged Canadians in every province and territory on the issue. Canadians have emphasized that safety and security are the top priority now and in the future, and that this generation must assume active responsibility for putting in place a plan for the long-term stewardship of used nuclear fuel. Ensuring the long-term, safe and secure management of used nuclear fuel for the protection of people and the environment is an important responsibility we all share.

APM, and the repository planned as its endpoint, meets the priority of Canadians to take action now to provide a long-term management approach for the used fuel currently stored in Canada on an interim basis at the reactor sites where it is generated.  At the same time, the APM repository also provides for used fuel to be retrieved if necessary, for example if there is an opportunity to take advantage of new technologies that may be developed. This allows for the potential for recycling used fuel should it ever become viable in the future. It is important to note that the decision whether or not to reprocess used nuclear fuel resides with the nuclear power producers (OPG, HQ, NBP), regulators and government; not with the NWMO.

Reprocessing used nuclear fuel was an option that was considered during the three-year study. Although citizens concluded reprocessing was not appropriate for Canada at this time, there was considerable interest in the technology and the NWMO committed to keeping a watching brief on international scientific developments in the field. You can find these posted on the NWMO web site: www.nwmo.ca./adaptation. In addition to the watching brief, you might also be interested to review a backgrounder on our Web site with more information about Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing: www.nwmo.ca/backgrounders.

Current reprocessing technologies are prohibitively expensive, especially for un-enriched CANDU fuel. Countries such as China that reprocess used fuel with enriched uranium from their light water reactors do not reprocess used fuel with natural uranium from their CANDU reactors. Rather, they are planning direct placement of used CANDU fuel in a deep geological repository.

In any known possible future reprocessing or advanced fuel cycle scenario, there will be long-lived radioactive waste that will require a deep geological repository for safe, long-term management. Reprocessing results in numerous high-volume, chemically complex radioactive waste streams, including liquid wastes, that are often more difficult to manage than the original used fuel. Even for those countries that do reprocess their used nuclear fuel, a deep geological repository like the one we are pursuing in Canada is still needed for long-term management of residual high-level waste generated by reprocessing. We have provided a chart below that shows the status of reprocessing in a number of countries around the world, as well as plans for managing waste:

Summary of Current Status of Reprocessing for the Nuclear Power Fuel Cycle

Country Commercial Scale Reprocessing Facility Currently Send Used Fuel for  Reprocessing in Other Country Decided to Cease Having Used Fuel Reprocessed Planning Direct Placement of Used Fuel in a Repository
Existing Planned
Belgium ü ü
Canada ü
China(3) ü ü (4)
Czech Republic ü(7) ü
Finland ü(7) ü
France(3) ü (2)
Germany ü ü
Hungary ü(7) ü
India(3) ü
Japan ü (6) ü
Korea, Rep. of ü
Mexico ü
Netherlands Until 2015(5) ü ü
Pakistan(3)
Romania ü
Russia(3) ü
Slovakia ü(7) ü
Slovenia ü
Spain ü
Sweden ü ü
Switzerland ü ü
United Kingdom(3) ü (1) ü ü
Ukraine ü(7) ü
USA(3) ü ü

 

(1)    UK plans to cease reprocessing at end of current contracts
(2)    EDF recently planned to cease reprocessing their used fuel  but were required to continue for national policy reasons
(3)    China/France/UK/Russia/US/Pakistan/India currently reprocess for military reasons
(4)    China plans direct placement of their CANDU used fuel in a repository
(5)    Used fuel sent to France for reprocessing
(6)    Facility has been constructed and is undergoing test operation, but policy currently under review
(7)    Some used fuel was sent to former Soviet Union for reprocessing.  Practice terminated at end of USSR era.

 

Also, any decisions on whether or not to build advanced reactors (to use today’s used fuel) would be taken by the nuclear power companies, not by NWMO and would be subject to a separate regulatory process. Currently, there are no plans by the nuclear power companies to do this.  Any such decisions are many decades away, and would require very large research & development investments, as well as prototype facilities ( costing tens of billions of dollars).  The success of an advanced reactor system also requires a long-term commitment to their continued use over several centuries.  This is contrary to the concept of having the current generation deal with the issue.