Community Questions and Answers

Collaboration with the public is key to the design of Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel, and is at the heart of the plan’s implementation. We welcome your comments and questions as an important means of engaging the community throughout the process. The NWMO responses below address questions from South Bruce and area residents. For more information, please visit, You Asked Us, at www.nwmo.ca.


Our CLC recently received a letter and attachments from a local resident.  Can the NWMO please review and respond?

Thank you for the opportunity to review and respond to the letter recently forwarded to the South Bruce CLC from a local resident. We appreciate all comments from members of the public, which are taken into account and help inform our work.

Canada’s Adaptive Phased Management (APM) site selection process is designed to ensure that, above all, the site selected is safe and secure, and meets the highest scientific, professional and ethical standards.

The individual who contacted you raised a number of important topics in his letter. We have provided information on each below.

Protecting people and the environment

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.

Any selected site will have to satisfy the site evaluation criteria listed in the NWMO site selection process, which can be found on our website at: www.nwmo.ca/uploads_managed/MediaFiles/1545_processforselectingasiteforcan.pdf.

Six key safety-related questions will be asked of any site:

  1. Are the characteristics of the rock at the site appropriate to ensuring the long-term containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel from humans, the environment and surface disturbances caused by human activities and natural events?
  2. Is the rock formation at the site geologically stable and likely to remain stable over the very long term in a manner that will ensure the repository will not be substantially affected by geological and climate change processes such as earthquakes and glacial cycles?
  3. Are conditions at the site suitable for the safe construction, operation and closure of the repository?
  4. Is human intrusion at the site unlikely, for instance through future exploration or mining?
  5. Can the geologic conditions at the site be practically studied and described on dimensions that are important for demonstrating long-term safety?
  6. Can a transportation route be identified or developed by which used nuclear fuel can safely and securely be transported to the site from the locations at which it is stored?

These key safety-related questions must be addressed through the development of a robust safety case. The site will be evaluated through a series of progressively more detailed scientific and technical assessments over a series of steps. 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. In particular, evidence will be sought that conditions at the site have been stable with little to no groundwater movement for millions of years.

The NWMO will be required to demonstrate the safety of the repository and its components to the satisfaction of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in order to receive a licence to construct the facility.

Nuclear Energy

It is not the intent of the NWMO to advocate one energy source over another. Used fuel exists and must be managed. APM addresses the need of Canadians for safety, security and protection of the environment. The NWMO is committed to protecting both this and future generations in this regard.

Funding and Oversight

In Canada the NWMO is mandated with implementing Adaptive Phased Management, Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of our country’s used nuclear fuel-financial surety is a cornerstone of this plan.

The planning, development and implementation of the Adaptive Phased Management plan is funded by the major owners of used nuclear fuel in Canada: Ontario Power Generation, NB Power, Hydro-Québec and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. The Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA) requires each of these four companies to establish independently managed trust funds and make annual deposits to ensure that the money to fund this project will be available when needed.

More information about funding is available in the backgrounder Funding Canada’s Plan for the Safe, Long-Term Management of Used Nuclear Fuel, which is posted at www.nwmo.ca/backgrounders.

Implementation of APM for Canada’s used nuclear fuel is regulated under federal laws and regulations. The NWMO is required to report annually to the Minister of Natural Resources, and make these reports public at the same time. These reports are available online at www.nwmo.ca/annualreport.

The project will also be subject to a thorough and comprehensive regulatory review process covering the entire life cycle of the repository and associated facilities. The regulatory review will ensure that the project will be implemented in a manner that protects the safety of people and the environment. Security of the repository and activities such as transportation, handling and storage of used fuel will also be part of the review process.

Hanford

The NWMO is not in a position to comment in detail about operations at Hanford, but we can point out a few important differences with Canada’s plan for used nuclear fuel. For example, the used fuel generated by nuclear electricity plants in Canada is a solid ceramic material, not a liquid. Canada’s used nuclear fuel will be contained and isolated in a deep geological repository that is located in an informed and willing host community and designed to safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel for hundreds of thousands of years. In contrast, according to the US Department of Energy (www.hanford.gov/page.cfm/TankFarms), the liquid waste at Hanford is stored not in a deep geological repository, but in large tanks on or near the surface that were intended to be “…used temporarily until a permanent place to dispose of the waste was identified.”

The design of Canada’s used fuel repository is based on the use of multiple barriers:

  • 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 postclosure 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.

More information about the barriers is available in the NWMO backgrounder The Multi-Barrier System at www.nwmo.ca/backgrounders.

Security

The NWMO will develop and submit security plans to obtain a licence to transport used nuclear fuel to the repository facility.  Security plans will ensure that used nuclear fuel will receive adequate physical protection against any credible threat during transport as well as during operations at the repository site. The security plans must 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.

With regard to the examples provided, as noted above, used nuclear fuel is not a liquid or a gas. Used nuclear fuel pellets are made from uranium dioxide powder, baked in a furnace to produce a hard, high-density ceramic. Ceramics do not readily dissolve in water and are resistant to high temperatures. The fuel pellets are not flammable or explosive.

As you may be aware the APM approach emerged from a three-year dialogue with Canadians. Led by the NWMO, the study engaged Canadians in every province and territory on the issue. Canadians emphasized that safety and security are the top priority now and in the future. They also made clear that that our generation has an ethical responsibility to put in place a long-term management approach for the used nuclear fuel we have produced and not leave it as a legacy for future generations. APM was identified by Canadians as the approach that best meets their values and objectives.

We trust you find this information helpful.


If I am asked by my 10-year-old son what exactly Adaptive Phased Management is and how it could impact his future, how would the NWMO explain the concept to him? I don’t believe this to be a trivial question since it is my understanding that by the time APM is implemented, some 15-20 years will pass and is it not important for the NWMO to educate those citizens now who will be most affected by it in the future?

Given the long time frames associated with the implementation of Canada’s plan for the long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel, intergenerational considerations are an important factor informing the work of the NWMO.

The NWMO has consistently articulated a commitment to intergenerational fairness and inclusiveness. It is important that young people continue to be involved in the NWMO’s engagement activities and that they are recognized as a key stakeholder group locally, regionally, provincially and nationally, that must be provided adequate opportunity to become engaged and informed.

The NWMO has involved youth in its engagement program for many years in a variety of ways. For example, the NWMO includes youth in social research and dialogue activities; involves Aboriginal youth in engagement initiatives and forums; provides presentations to post-secondary students in relevant disciplines; supports and promotes youth science education through the Corporate Social Responsibility Program (CSRP); and presents engagement opportunities for youth at the local level in interested siting communities. When invited to do so, the NWMO provides presentations to elementary and high school students in the classroom and welcomes school groups to community Open Houses to learn more about the project.

To learn more about how the NWMO has and continues to engage youth, please see the following webpage: www.nwmo.ca/youthengagement.

Regarding your question about explaining Adaptive Phased Management to your 10-year-old, we have found the following points provide a good starting point for young people:

  • For decades Canadians have been using electricity generated by nuclear power reactors in Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec.
  • When used nuclear fuel is removed from a reactor, it remains a potential health risk and must be safely isolated from people and the environment, essentially indefinitely.
  • Today, Canada’s used nuclear fuel is safely stored at licensed facilities located at nuclear power plants where it is produced. This arrangement is considered interim and not meant to be permanent.
  • Like many other countries with nuclear power programs, Canada is planning for the future.
  • The NWMO has met with thousands of citizens from many parts of Canada to hear their advice about how to proceed. What we have heard is that this generation wants to move forward in dealing with our used nuclear fuel, believing it is imprudent and unfair to leave it as a legacy for future generations to deal with. Ensuring the long-term, safe and secure management of used nuclear fuel is an important responsibility we, as Canadians, share.
  • Canada’s plan for managing used nuclear fuel safely for the long term involves constructing a repository approximately 500 metres underground in a suitable rock formation that will contain and isolate the used fuel from people and the environment.
  • It will take many years of study to identify a site that meets all the safety requirements, and only communities that are informed and willing to accept the project will be considered. The earliest a repository might be operational is 2035.

Canada’s plan for managing used nuclear fuel over the long term, and many of the most common questions asked about it, are addressed in a series of backgrounders, most of which are readily understood by young people and are available on the NWMO website at www.nwmo.ca/backgrounders. The plan is also outlined in videos, available in DVD format, or on the website at www.nwmo.ca/videos.  Notable among these is: Managing Canada’s Used Nuclear Fuel: A Responsible Path Forward, which explains how the plan was collaboratively developed to reflect the values and objectives of Canadians, what the project entails, and how it is being implemented.


May I see a detailed graph of radioactivity decay rates (I assume for used CANDU fuel)?

A recent graph of decay of radioactivity versus time in used fuel (normalized to per kg of uranium) is available in NWMO TR-2012-08, Fourth Case Study Reference Data and Codes, Figure 4.2. Information on the inventory and half-lives of important radionuclides is provided in Table 4.4 in the same report. You can find this and other technical reports on our website at www.nwmo.ca/technicalresearch.


What flight control strategies would be used for security at the repository site?

Threat and risk assessments that are specific to the location and site would have to be completed as part of developing an adequate security program for this type of facility. Since no site has been selected, this level of detail is not yet complete. The security regulations require a licensee, among other things and as applicable, to submit the current threat and risk assessment with a licence application to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.


Will the concept of APM at a single site prohibit in the future the possible storage or disposal of nuclear waste other than spent fuel rods if application were made to the CNSC to do so? Or will the technical characteristics of the chosen APM site limit it to only spent nuclear fuel rods?

Canadians consulted during the NWMO study (2002–2005) gave social licence to Adaptive Phased Management on the basis that it was for Canada’s used nuclear fuel only. The plan was also approved by the Government of Canada on that basis.

Changing Adaptive Phased Management to accommodate other wastes would require further study involving significant re-engagement of Canadians to earn social licence for a new option, and government approvals if sufficient citizen consensus emerged on a new plan.


When you state that “social licence” was given to the NWMO between 2002–2005 other than the Seaborn Committee and the federal government, in what other way was this given by the Canadian people? And did it include approval for a DGR in rock formation other than the Canadian Shield (crystalline)?

The Adaptive Phased Management approach emerged from the three-year dialogue the NWMO had with Canadians and is responsive to the priorities they said were important. More than 18,000 Canadians, including 2,500 Aboriginal people and 500 specialists, in every province and territory, participated in the dialogue between 2002 and 2005. A range of traditional and innovative methods for engaging citizens was used during the study. These included deliberative dialogues, citizen panels, e-dialogues, information and discussions sessions, an ethics roundtable and other activities.

During the study, individuals and groups with diverse perspectives proposed values and objectives to guide NWMO decision-making. The majority of those we engaged recognized the need to move forward and begin the process of implementing a long-term management approach for used nuclear fuel. Adaptive Phased Management has a clear direction with flexibility built in to explore areas where citizens wish to gain greater confidence.

In dialogues after the recommendation was released in draft, most participants – except those who feel no long-term management approach is appropriate without first phasing out nuclear power – told us that overall, Adaptive Phased Management is a reasonable and appropriate approach for Canada.

How the study was conducted, what Canadians told us, and how the options were assessed are all described in detail in Choosing a Way Forward: The Future Management of Canada’s Used Nuclear Fuel, which is posted on the NWMO website at www.nwmo.ca/studyreport.

Adaptive Phased Management is both a technical method and a management system. The technical method is described beginning on page 133 of the Study Report at www.nwmo.ca/studyreport. It provides for “centralized containment and isolation of the used fuel in a deep geological repository in a suitable rock formation, such as the crystalline rock of the Canadian Shield or Ordovician sedimentary rock.” The rationale for including both crystalline and sedimentary formations is outlined in a background paper, Adaptive Phased Management Technical Description, which is available at www.nwmo.ca/technical_methods (Background Paper 6 – 18, Appendix A).


I am aware that technical (geologic suitability) is of highest priority in the APM site selection process. However, considering that the risks involved with the transportation of spent nuclear fuel will be a highly controversial issue, and that it may travel through communities that derive no benefits from the nuclear industry, to what degree (big factor or small) will the geographical proximity of a possible site play in your selection of the APM site?

Safety is the top priority in implementing Adaptive Phased Management. It cannot be compromised.

The NWMO is confident that used nuclear fuel can be safely transported from the nuclear reactor sites where it is currently safely managed on an interim basis to a deep geological repository where it will be safely managed over the long term.

Transportation of nuclear materials is a highly regulated activity involving both Transport Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. There has never been a serious injury, overexposure, fatality or environmental consequence as a result of more than 20,000 used fuel shipments travelling over 30 million kilometres in Canada or internationally over the past 45 years. Importantly, the package used to transport used nuclear fuel is designed to meet a series of challenging performance requirements specified by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and based on standards developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency to withstand severe impact, fire and immersion in water.

Geographical proximity of a future repository to the current reactor sites will not play a significant role in decision-making about a preferred safe site. The Adaptive Phased Management plan requires that all potentially affected communities be engaged in its implementation. Potential transportation communities will have questions and concerns that will need to be addressed. The NWMO is committed to engaging them.

You can learn more about the safe transportation of used nuclear fuel by reading our brochure, Safe and Secure Transportation of Canada’s Used Nuclear Fuel on our website at www.nwmo.ca/brochures.

You can also view a video which includes some extreme accident tests conducted in the UK and Germany at www.nwmo.ca/apm-videos/video:36/Transporting-Canadas-Used-Nuclear-Fuel.


The NWMO has estimated that it will cost between $16 to $24 billion “to implement” APM. I have also read that the current trust funds available are less than $2 billion. Where will the additional funds come from, and are they not dependent on the continued success of the nuclear industry? And what exactly does the term “to implement” APM mean? Is that just the cost to safely dispose of the current inventory of spent fuel bundles, or all additional inventory that accumulates from now until APM is implemented (in 30 years)?

The NWMO is mandated with implementing Adaptive Phased Management, Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel. Financial surety is a cornerstone of this plan.

Under the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA), the NWMO must estimate what costs can reasonably be expected to occur over the life of the project, along with a contingency for unexpected events, and design a system that collects and protects enough money to ensure that the entire cost can be covered under a variety of social and economic circumstances, and within a required time frame. One of the important obligations of the NWMO is to maintain updated cost estimates for the program so that funding will be available when needed. The current updated cost estimate is the outcome of a broadly based exercise led by the NWMO in the 2009–2011 period. Using the most up-to-date information on what it will cost to implement the Adaptive Phased Management program, this estimate provides a current and informed basis on which to inform trust fund deposits.

The updated cost estimate for the Adaptive Phased Management program is $17.9 billion (2010 $), which has a present value of $7 billion (2010 $). This estimate covers some 150 years of Adaptive Phased Management lifecycle activity for the deep geological repository and related transportation of used fuel. The actual cost to site, license, construct, operate, monitor, decommission and close a deep geological repository and used fuel transportation system will depend on a number of factors, including the location of the facility, the surrounding infrastructure, the rock type and characteristics, the design of the repository, the volume of used fuel to be managed and the period of extended monitoring following used fuel placement.

The planning, development and implementation of the Adaptive Phased Management plan is funded by the major owners of used nuclear fuel in Canada: Ontario Power Generation, NB Power, Hydro-Québec and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. The NFWA requires each of these four companies to establish independently managed trust funds and make annual deposits to ensure that the money to fund this project will be available when needed.

The funds were established in 2002, and annual contributions have been made by each waste owner since. The total value of these funds, including investment income, was approximately $2.8 billion as of the end of 2012. This money is in addition to other segregated funds and financial guarantees the companies have set aside for nuclear waste management and decommissioning; for example, Ontario Power Generation has accumulated approximately $13 billion in segregated funds to satisfy this condition.

We encourage you to read more about this topic in our 2012 backgrounder, entitled Financial Surety and Updated Lifecycle Cost Estimate for Adaptive Phased Management, which can be found at www.nwmo.ca/uploads_managed/MediaFiles/1960_backgrounder_financialsurety2012.pdf.


So far our community has been informed to a great extent as to the extensive economic benefits to a host community, as well as the priority of community safety in APM operations. When and how does the NWMO intend to inform the community of the potential risks and socio-economic impacts of APM? I do not see any such information at your open houses, nor in weekly info ads in my paper.

The implementation of Adaptive Phased Management will have a significant impact on any community that hosts the project.

The information sharing you describe has begun and will continue in an increasingly more detailed way as communities progress further in the site selection process. Your municipality is in the early stages of a multi-year, multi-step process to identify an informed and willing community with a confirmed suitable site to host a deep geological repository. At this early step, the focus is on dialogue within the community to learn about and explore interest in the project, with consideration for both technical and socio-economic factors.

Your community has recently chosen to move into the Preliminary Assessment phase, or Step 3 of the nine-step site selection process. Preliminary assessments are completed in two phases, and involve geoscientific and community well-being work in collaboration with the community. This work will identify and assess potential risks and opportunities associated with the project. We expect findings from the first phase of study will be provided to the community in 2014.

From a technical perspective and as outlined in the site selection process document

(www.nwmo.ca/uploads_managed/MediaFiles/1545_processforselectingasiteforcan.pdf), any site that is selected to host this facility must be demonstrated to be able to safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel for a very long period of time. The ability of a deep geological repository to safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel relies on the form and properties of the waste, the human-made or engineered barriers placed around the waste, and the natural barriers provided by the host rock formation in which the repository will be located. The preferred site will be in a rock formation with desirable characteristics (geological, hydrogeological, chemical and mechanical), that support containment and repository performance to meet or exceed the regulatory expectations of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the guidance of the International Atomic Energy Agency and experience in other countries with nuclear waste management programs. The examination of the appropriateness of the geology is conducted through a series of progressively more detailed scientific and technical assessments over a series of steps. These studies will be shared with the community.

The potential socio-economic impacts of the project on the community will also be explored with the community over the course of conduct of the preliminary assessment. The NWMO understands that the potential effects of the project need to be evaluated against the priorities and concerns of the community, which is why the NWMO will work with the community to identify and assess these effects.

As outlined in the site selection process document, the NWMO encourages communities, early in the site selection process, to consider this project in the context of their long-term interests. Such a broad approach would help highlight the resources (social, economic, environmental) of the community and pave the way for thinking about how the project may affect the community in a variety of ways. Ultimately, the vision for the community and the extent to which the project contributes to this vision in an acceptable way is a matter for the community to discuss and assess. In working with the community, the NWMO will encourage a very broad approach be taken to identifying potential effects, including elements relating to such things as economic health, the environment, safety and security, spiritual dimensions, social conditions, and enhancing opportunities for people and the community as a whole.

Although the project offers significant employment and income to the host community, region and province, with a project of this size and nature, there is the potential to contribute to social and economic pressures that must be carefully managed to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of the community and region. These must be understood and will be outlined in the studies, in progressively more detail as studies proceed. Preliminary findings will be available at the end of Phase 1 of Preliminary Assessment studies and would be examined in further detail in subsequent studies should the community continue further in the site selection process.


I have been hearing an ongoing debate in Bruce County regarding the DGR for low and intermediate waste to be located in Kincardine and why it could not be used for high level waste as well. I understand that for political reasons this cannot be done. However, I have also heard it stated by a scientist from the CNSC that there are no technical reasons known at this time why it couldn’t be done, and years down the road, a licence to do so could be applied for. Are there indeed technical or geologic reasons that would make this impossible?

Adaptive Phased Management and OPG’s proposed repository for low and intermediate level waste were initiated under distinct processes, consistent with the federal Radioactive Waste Management Policy Framework that assigns roles and responsibilities for managing different streams of radioactive waste. Under this framework, owners of low and intermediate level waste are responsible for the storage and disposal of the wastes they create. OPG is a waste owner, and its proposed DGR is consistent with this framework.

The federal government is responsible for overseeing nuclear fuel waste, and in 2002, it passed the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act. This legislation governs long-term used nuclear fuel management, and included establishing the NWMO to lead development and implementation of the plan.

Building one DGR for two types of radioactive waste would be complex. The requirements for handling and storing used fuel and low and intermediate level (L&ILW) waste are different, which means in reality, one DGR for both would actually be two DGRs co-located beside each other. It would require two sets of emplacement operations and underground rooms. Layout, operations and transportation could be more complex and costly, in part because two different types of operations would need to run concurrently. And it would require a larger site, which could make it more difficult to find a suitable location.

Canada is following internationally accepted practice – most other countries pursuing repositories for used fuel and L&ILW are keeping the two facilities separate. For example, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, UK and US are all at various stages of developing facilities for used nuclear fuel that are separate from their facilities for low and intermediate level waste.


I have heard from some who have concerns within my community that if we were selected as a technically feasible site for APM that the optics of Canada’s high level nuclear waste coming here would lead to a stigmatization of our community. How would the NWMO counter this as this would not be based on the “comfort level” of the host community, but on that of outside visitors and prospective new members of the community?

As part of the studies and discussions in the community during preliminary assessments, it will be important to explore and assess how the implementation might help or harm the community in achieving its long-term vision or goals. The potential for a stigma effect would be part of this discussion, as would be the means to avoid or mitigate any effect should there be one. This would be explored with the community during Phase 1 and Phase 2 studies.

Preliminary review of literature suggests that a project such as this one may in fact increase property values and enhance tourism rather than have a detrimental effect. This is why community-specific studies are needed to explore this concern and will be conducted during the preliminary assessment phase of the site selection process.


The Globe and Mail recently reported (May 2013 – Report on Business, page 40) that spent nuclear fuel could be used by Transatomic Power of Massachusetts to meet world electricity needs through 2083. Is the NWMO considering such alternatives in the disposal of Canada’s nuclear waste, and is APM flexible enough to integrate such alternatives or is a DGR the only option?

Reprocessing used nuclear fuel was an option that was considered during the three-year study of options from which the Adaptive Phased Management approach emerged. Although citizens concluded it 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 reports posted on the NWMO website at www.nwmo.ca/adaption.

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) and government, not with the NWMO. As well, 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.

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.

You will recall that Adaptive Phased Management, by definition, is adaptive and can be adjusted to respond to changing societal values or technological innovation. At the same time, Adaptive Phased Management meets the priority of Canadians to take action now to provide a long-term approach for the used fuel currently stored in Canada on an interim basis. As the NWMO implements Adaptive Phased Management, the organization will continue to apply the best scientific and technical knowledge available in Canada and internationally.

In addition to the watching brief mentioned above, you might also be interested to review a backgrounder on our website with more information about Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing at www.nwmo.ca/uploads_managed/MediaFiles/1965_backgrounder_usednuclearfuelreprocessing2012.pdf.


In recent news stories, it was reported that you met with Bruce County mayors 18 times since 2005, and these meetings were kept secret. How can you account for this? Aren’t mayors considered “municipal officials”?

Since it was established in 2002, the NWMO has met with all interested individuals, groups and organizations to update them on our work, answer questions, hear concerns and seek advice.

The DGR Community Consultation Advisory Group was formed to inform mayors in Bruce County about OPG’s proposed DGR for low and intermediate level waste, to hear their advice and respond to their questions about that project. These were not NMWO meetings. They were not decision-making meetings.

At two of the 16 meetings that occurred between 2005 and 2012, the NWMO provided briefings in response to questions the mayors had asked about the NWMO’s mandate regarding long-term management of used nuclear fuel. These briefings occurred on March 24, 2009, and on February 25, 2010. We’ve attached the slide decks that were used (Presentation 1, Presentation 2). As you can clearly see, the purpose of the briefings was to update the mayors on Adaptive Phased Management and on the site selection process which was under development at the time.

The NWMO site selection process was launched, and communities were invited to express interest in learning about Adaptive Phased Management and the process in May 2010. The launch was in the form of a national news release distributed by Canada News Wire to every broadcast and print newsroom in the country.

The process for the NWMO engaging Bruce County communities is consistent with the process for engaging other communities engaged in the Adaptive Phased Management site selection process. We continue to operate in an open and transparent manner, informing and seeking the advice of all interested groups and organizations.


There is no doubt that the siting of APM in a small rural community will have enormous socio-economic impact. To prepare for this possibility, we are doing a strategic plan of which the NWMO is assisting us with funding of $40,000. However, I do not understand why this plan, at the request of the NWMO, will not be done in the ‘what-if’ context of APM coming into our community. How can community members turn a blind eye to this possibility when providing input on the future of the community?

As you noted, communities requesting feasibility studies are eligible to receive resources from the NWMO for capacity building and engagement to enable the community to learn about the project, reflect on its interest, encourage local discussion and debate, and engage with the NWMO throughout feasibility studies.

The NWMO encourages communities to conduct a community visioning exercise or develop a strategic plan without considering the NWMO project as the first part of a two-part process. In the first part of the process, the community reflects on its own interests. Developing a community vision or strategic plan can help the community’s leadership to understand the needs of their constituents and allow them to strategically plan to address those needs and make informed decisions about proposed initiatives within the community. The process of developing a community sustainability vision or strategic plan can allow residents and members to learn about the range of interests in their community and define a common vision, and set of priorities and goals.

The second part of the process is to use the vision or strategic plan as a lens through which to look at the Adaptive Phased Management project. As the community learns about what the Adaptive Phased Management project entails and how it might unfold in the community, it will be important to explore the extent to which the project will help the community achieve the vision, priorities and objectives which the community identified independently from the project.

We hope this two-part process will help the community examine the broad range of ways in which the implementation of the project may affect the community. We hope this process will help the community explore the extent to which the project will help foster the well-being of the community. Ultimately, the vision for the community, and the extent to which the project contributes to this vision in an acceptable way, is a matter for the community to discuss and assess.

In short, we encourage community members to learn about and assess the NWMO project for the community and have suggested a robust approach to do so. The vision or strategic plan that is developed may also be helpful as a base for examining other large projects. Note that funding would be available to the community to explore ‘what-if’ scenarios at a later point in the site selection process should the community wish to do so.

You can learn more about resources available to communities engaged in Step 3 of the siting process on the NWMO website at www.nwmo.ca/sitingprocess_feasibilitystudies_resources.


It is my understanding the NWMO refuses to participate in an upcoming public panel discussion. As this would be of great benefit to the number of communities in Bruce County engaged in the site selection to hear a balanced discussion on APM, why would the NWMO refuse to send at least one representative?

The NWMO is committed to engaging interested people in a constructive dialogue where we can hear and address their concerns and respond to their questions. We have found that meaningful dialogue occurs best when our specialists are able to have respectful conversations, one-on-one or with small groups, at events such as Open Houses. Debates, panels or similar formats are not always conducive to learning.

The NWMO will also continue to participate in community events that provide opportunities for one-on-one conversations with interested citizens. We recently attended and met with more than 100 attendees at the Chesley Agri-Fair. Later this spring, we will be establishing storefront offices in each of the Step 3 communities in Bruce County so that we can answer questions and hear the concerns of visitors on an ongoing basis.

The NWMO’s approach to engagement is outlined on our website at www.nwmo.ca/social_research_and_dialogue#whydialogue.


There are numerous residents of Bruce County, including myself, who feel the public dialogue process for APM is skewed and the agenda is scoped in such a way as to favour those with highly technical knowledge of nuclear waste management. Common citizens are feeling it is beyond their understanding, and as a result, the NWMO will see little participation in both liaison committees and open houses. Would the NWMO ever consider reassessing its dialogue strategy? Perhaps consider another process that is proving successful in Alberta? (See link below)

http://www.albertaclimatedialogue.ca

Many of the approaches highlighted on the website you provided are similar to the approaches the NWMO has used since it began the study phase of work more than 10 years ago. Adaptive Phased Management emerged out of those discussions.

For instance, activities have included the National Citizens Dialogue on Values conducted by Canadian Policy Research Networks; discussion groups were convened in a number of regions who met several times over an extended period convened by Navigator research; a number of e-dialogues were convened by Royal Roads University; multi-party dialogue sessions were convened by Stratos; web surveys, nationwide public attitude research, and 120 advertised information and discussion sessions held coast to coast to coast.

The NWMO continues to participate in community events that provide opportunities for one-on-one conversations with interested citizens. We recently attended and met with more than 100 attendees at the Chesley Agri-Fair. Later this spring, we will be establishing storefront offices in each of the Step 3 communities in Bruce County so that we can answer questions and hear the concerns of visitors on an ongoing basis.

We recognize it will take time for citizens to learn about Adaptive Phased Management and to reflect on their interest. As you know, the NWMO is in the early stages of a lengthy, multi-step process for identifying an informed and willing community with a confirmed suitable site to host a deep geological repository. The NWMO will continue to work with communities that choose to progress through the site selection process and meet the successively more detailed siting criteria. We will continue to provide information in different formats, including dialogue, documentation, advertising, local events and open houses, to meet the needs of interested individuals and organizations.


The NWMO says that it wants a fair and balanced public discussion regarding the concept of APM, and yet in Bruce County libraries, I find only the kiosks of NWMO that offer info on nuclear waste management. Other books they have are either dated or anti-nuke. I did manage to order and read a very good and scholarly critique of nuclear waste management that would serve the public well in this discussion. It is called Nuclear Waste Management in Canada edited by Prof. Darrin Durant. If it was acceptable by Bruce County Library to circulate, would the NWMO fund the purchase? I ask this as a councillor who seeks a balanced discussion on APM for my community.

As you noted, the NWMO provides an information kiosk at the request of the community to help residents learn about Adaptive Phased Management, the deep geological repository project and the site selection process. The kiosk makes available a variety of materials, such as backgrounders and videos, for people to explore at their convenience.

Communities that have requested feasibility studies are eligible to receive resources (funding and expertise) from the NWMO. These resources are intended to support capacity building and engagement to enable the community to learn about the project, reflect on its interest, encourage local discussion and debate, and engage with the NWMO throughout feasibility studies.

NWMO funding and assistance is provided through the local Council, and if the Council chooses, the Community Liaison Committee (CLC). The resources available can be used for such things as hiring of independent consultants to provide information, and funding for administrative assistance to ease the added workload on municipal staff for community participation in the site selection process. A portion of this modest funding could be used to purchase materials such as books that support learning, should the community choose. The funding is described on the NWMO website at www.nwmo.ca/sitingprocess_feasibilitystudies.


Is there any way that the NWMO could fund the purchase of books directly since by doing it through each liaison committee would be piece meal and a lengthy process? Kiosks have been set up for over a year now on a regional basis providing regional learning. The same should be given to alternate learning materials through all libraries in the region. Would the NWMO not want to appear fair in the eyes of the entire region this proposal would affect? Or should the learning be confined just to the community of an organized liaison committee?

There are many sources of information, individuals and organizations with expertise and knowledge on the management of used nuclear fuel, some of whom are more knowledgeable and more balanced in their perspective than others. The NWMO is reluctant to direct communities to specific individuals and organizations, either through direct funding of these organizations or through direct purchase of their written material, as this direction would necessarily reflect the NWMO’s judgment on which are credible sources. For instance, you may not agree with an NWMO decision who to fund and who not to fund. It is for this reason that the NWMO site selection process puts this decision in the hands of the community itself, its accountable authorities or those they designate, through providing funding which is directed by the community itself.


When the NWMO says that it requires an overwhelming demonstration of willingness from an informed community to host APM, how does it gauge a community’s willingness and whether or not it is fully informed? And if the community lies within the boundaries of First Nations treaty lands, does the NWMO also require consent from the local band members to proceed?

Best practice and experience suggest there are a range of approaches a community may use to demonstrate its willingness in a compelling way. These might include documented support expressed through such means as open community discussions, a telephone poll, online meetings or surveys, and/or 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.

This demonstration of willingness from the community is required after detailed site characterization is completed in Step 4, approximately seven to 10 years from now. If there is a sufficiently high level of assurance at this stage that the site meets all the required safety considerations, a community would be asked in Step 5 to confirm whether they are willing to accept the project and provide a compelling demonstration of willingness to proceed.

We discuss Aboriginal rights, treaties and land claims in the document Moving Forward Together: Process for Selecting a Site for Canada’s Deep Geological Repository for Used Nuclear Fuel at www.nwmo.ca/uploads_managed/MediaFiles/1545_processforselectingasiteforcan.pdf. As noted in section 5, the siting process will respect Aboriginal rights and treaties and will take into account that there may be unresolved claims between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown. The NWMO recognizes the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate if necessary when potential Aboriginal and treaty rights may be adversely affected by proposed Crown conduct when the NWMO selects a site.

As you may know, one of the over-arching questions we will be working towards answering is: “The project will be implemented in a way that will foster the long-term well-being of the surrounding area. Is there the potential to foster the well-being of the surrounding area and to establish the foundation to move forward with the project?” In answering this question, we will be meeting with Aboriginal communities to ensure this is done in a way that reflects their rights and their sense of well-being. You can find out more about our key questions to be addressed on our website at www.nwmo.ca/sitingprocess_feasibilitystudies.


What is the area of the DGR footprint required to accommodate an inclined ramp?

The siting of a ramp in the DGR footprint has not been assessed at this time. However, it would be expected to fit within the overall project footprint. The length of the ramp segments and the number of switchbacks would influence the footprint of the ramp.


What would be the total length of the inclined ramp from the surface to the repository level?

Considering a ramp grade of 1:10 (this is consistent with both the Swedish and Finnish designs), and the reference repository depth of 500 metres, the ramp would be 5 kilometres in total length.


What would be the added volume of rock to be blasted and excavated in the construction of an inclined ramp for the DGR?

An assessment of a ramp has not yet been undertaken. As such, the cross-section dimensions have not been determined. However, if we consider international practice, the cross-sectional area could be in the range of 35m2 to 50m2, which would result in 175,000m3 to 250,000m3 of excavation.


What would be the additional construction time required to build the DGR if an inclined ramp is used?

The schedule impacts of developing a ramp has not been completed at this time.


How would groundwater and aquifer water drainage be controlled or be prevented from entering the many kilometres of the inclined ramp thereby entering the site?

Details will depend on conditions at the specific site that is selected. The design will ensure potential water inflow to a ramp during construction or operations will be managed by grouting or liners or other approaches. Many years later, after sufficient performance monitoring data have been collected to support a decision by the community and the regulator to decommission and close the repository, access tunnels, perimeter drifts and shafts/ramp will be sealed to prevent water inflow.

It is important to recognize that any design 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. Some aspects of the design can only be confirmed once a potential site is identified, and site specific technical and scientific studies are completed.

We also expect some aspects of the reference design may be refined through discussions with potential host communities and those in the surrounding area to ensure it better addresses their values, needs and preferences. Some aspects of the reference design may also be refined through new developments in technology and demonstration programs conducted in Canada and internationally.

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.


Does the NWMO consider sedimentary to be on a par with crystalline rock formation as far as suitability for a DGR? And does sedimentary present a unique challenge for utilizing a direct vertical shaft to access the repository?

Canada’s Adaptive Phased Management site selection process is designed to ensure that, above all, the site selected is safe and secure, and meets the highest scientific, professional and ethical standards. Based on international and Canadian experience, both sedimentary and crystalline rocks are potentially suitable for hosting a deep geological repository, and the NWMO is considering both. The suitability of these rocks is influenced by site-specific geoscientific conditions which vary from site to site. The rock type does not present any unique challenges associated with using a direct vertical shaft. Any selected site will have to satisfy the site evaluation criteria listed in the NWMO site selection process, which you can find on our website at www.nwmo.ca/uploads_managed/MediaFiles/1545_processforselectingasiteforcan.pdf.

Six key safety-related questions will be asked of any site:

  1. Are the characteristics of the rock at the site appropriate to ensuring the long-term containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel from humans, the environment and surface disturbances caused by human activities and natural events?
  2. Is the rock formation at the site geologically stable and likely to remain stable over the very long term in a manner that will ensure the repository will not be substantially affected by geological and climate change processes such as earthquakes and glacial cycles?
  3. Are conditions at the site suitable for the safe construction, operation and closure of the repository?
  4. Is human intrusion at the site unlikely, for instance through future exploration or mining?
  5. Can the geologic conditions at the site be practically studied and described on dimensions that are important for demonstrating long-term safety?
  6. Can a transportation route be identified or developed by which used nuclear fuel can safely and securely be transported to the site from the locations at which it is stored?

These key safety-related questions must be addressed through the development of a robust safety case. The site will be evaluated through a series of progressively more detailed scientific and technical assessments over a series of steps. 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.


The NWMO asserts that underground disposal is the only acceptable method of nuclear waste disposal. And yet a TO professor Peter Ottensmeyer recently told a Bruce County radio audience that fast-fission reactors will eliminate the waste in a productive method. Why is this method not considered feasible by the NWMO? And was it reviewed earlier by the Seaborn Panel and dismissed?

Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel emerged from a three-year study of options, which engaged Canadians in every province and territory on the issue. The plan, called Adaptive Phased Management, was approved by the Government of Canada in 2007. Importantly, the plan is adaptive and can be adjusted to respond to changing societal values or technological innovation.

Reprocessing used nuclear fuel was an option that was considered during the three-year study. Although citizens concluded it 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 the most recent report posted on the NWMO website at www.nwmo.ca/uploads_managed/MediaFiles/2047_watchingbriefonreprocessingpartitioningandtransmutation-2012update-en.pdf. Previous editions of the watching brief are available at www.nwmo.ca/adaption.

It is important to note that 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 (DGR) for safe, long-term management. 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.

Current reprocessing technologies are prohibitively expensive, especially for un-enriched CANDU fuel, and do not provide any material benefit to radioactive waste management. Reprocessing results in numerous chemically complex waste streams, including liquid wastes, that are often more difficult to manage than the original used fuel.

The DGR planned as an end point of Adaptive Phased Management also provides for used fuel to be retrieved if necessary. This allows for the potential for recycling used fuel should it ever become viable in the future. At the same time, Adaptive Phased Management meets the priority of Canadians to take action now to provide a long-term approach for the used fuel currently stored in Canada on an interim basis.

In addition to the watching brief mentioned above, you might also be interested to review a backgrounder on our website with more information about Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing at www.nwmo.ca/uploads_managed/MediaFiles/1965_backgrounder_usednuclearfuelreprocessing2012.pdf.

Regarding the Seaborn panel, it was established specifically to do an environmental assessment of the deep geological disposal concept developed by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. It did not examine other long-term management approaches for used nuclear fuel.


How is it that the NWMO can expect a community to commit to hosting a DGR when the most critical information regarding safety and risks to the environment are not known until the environmental assessment process which comes after a community commits to being the host site?

Canada’s deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel will not be imposed on any community.

An environmental assessment for this project must be site specific. The environmental assessment will be triggered when a potentially suitable site hosted by an informed and willing community is identified. This is why the site selection process requires a series of increasingly more detailed social and technical assessments before a preferred site is selected.

These assessments include a five-year $200-million detailed site characterization study. All the critical questions regarding safety, risks to the environment and community well-being must be explored before a community can commit willingness to host the project in an informed way.

Once the community has expressed willingness, the accountable decision-making body enters into a formal agreement with the NWMO as to the conditions under which the project will proceed, subject to all regulatory requirements being met and regulatory approval received.

Once a potential host community is identified, the regulatory process will commence. As you noted, this process includes an environmental assessment. The agreement with the community and construction of the facility can only move forward if all regulatory requirements are met and the necessary licences granted.


Funding

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is mandated with implementing Adaptive Phased Management (APM), Canada’s plan for the safe, long‐term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel. Financial surety is a cornerstone of this plan.

Under the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA), the NWMO must estimate what costs can reasonably be expected to occur over the life of the project, along with a contingency for unexpected events, and design a system that collects and protects enough money to ensure that the entire cost can be covered under a variety of social and economic circumstances, and within a required time frame. One of the important obligations of the NWMO is to maintain updated cost estimates for the program so that funding will be available when needed. The current updated cost estimate is the outcome of a broadly based exercise led by the NWMO in the 2009–2011 period. Using the most up‐to‐date information on what it will cost to implement the APM program, this estimate provides a current and informed basis on which to inform trust fund deposits.

The updated cost estimate for the APM program is $17.9 billion (2010 $), which has a present value of $7 billion (2010 $). This estimate covers some 150 years of APM lifecycle activity for the deep geological repository and related transportation of used fuel. The actual cost to site, license, construct, operate, monitor, decommission and close a deep geological repository and used fuel transportation system will depend on a number of factors, including the location of the facility, the surrounding infrastructure, the rock type and characteristics, the design of the repository, the volume of used fuel to be managed and the period of extended monitoring following used fuel placement.

The planning, development and implementation of the APM plan is funded by the major owners of used nuclear fuel in Canada: Ontario Power Generation, NB Power, Hydro‐Québec and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. The NFWA requires each of these four companies to establish independently managed trust funds and make annual deposits to ensure that the money to fund this project will be available when needed.

The funds were established in 2002, and annual contributions have been made by each waste owner since. The total value of these funds, including investment income, was approximately $2.9 billion at the end of 2013. This money is in addition to other segregated funds and financial guarantees the companies have set aside for nuclear waste management and decommissioning; for example, Ontario Power Generation has accumulated approximately $13 billion in segregated funds to satisfy this condition.
You can read more about this topic in the 2012 backgrounder entitled: Financial Surety and Updated Lifecycle Cost Estimate for Adaptive Phased Management, which can be found online at: http://www.nwmo.ca/backgrounders

Audited financial statements of each of the waste owners’ NFWA Trust Funds are also posted annually on the NWMO website at: www.nwmo.ca/trustfunds


Adaptive Phased Management

Adaptive Phased Management (APM) charts a course for the safe, secure long‐term management of used nuclear fuel in line with best international practice, meeting the highest scientific, professional and ethical standards and the values and objectives that Canadians have said are most important. APM involves the development of a large infrastructure project in an informed and willing host community. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is federally mandated to implement this project and is beginning the multi‐year process to identify an informed and willing host for this national facility.

The plan calls for used nuclear fuel to be contained and isolated in a deep geological repository in a suitable rock formation. All aspects of the project, including the transportation of used fuel from the interim storage facilities to the repository, will be highly regulated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission during the entire life cycle of the facility – from site preparation to construction, operation and decommissioning. The proposed project will meet strict regulatory criteria to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians as well as the environment, and respect Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The multi‐billion‐dollar project will also involve the creation of a centre of expertise for technical, environmental and community studies. It will become a hub for national and international scientific collaboration. The project will generate thousands of jobs in a host region and hundreds of jobs in a host community for many decades, regardless of where it is located. It will be implemented through a long‐term partnership involving the community, the larger region in which it is located and the NWMO, in a way that fosters the long‐term well‐being of the area. Dedicated trust funds are in place to ensure the money will be there to pay for the project when it is needed.

The NWMO has worked collaboratively with interested organizations and individuals to design a fair and appropriate process for identifying an informed and willing host for the repository.


Safety and Security

This process is designed to ensure that, above all, the site selected is safe and secure and meets the highest scientific, professional and ethical standards. Any selected site will have to satisfy the strict evaluation criteria identified in the NWMO site selection process, which you can find online at: http://www.nwmo.ca/uploads_managed/MediaFiles/1545_processforselectingasiteforcan.pdf

Six key safety‐related questions will be asked of any site:

  1. Are the characteristics of the rock at the site appropriate to ensuring the long‐term containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel from humans, the environment and surface disturbances caused by human activities and natural events?
  2. Is the rock formation at the site geologically stable and likely to remain stable over the very long term in a manner that will ensure the repository will not be substantially affected by geological and climate change processes such as earthquakes and glacial cycles?
  3. Are conditions at the site suitable for the safe construction, operation and closure of the repository?
  4. Is human intrusion at the site unlikely, for instance through future exploration or mining?
  5. Can the geologic conditions at the site be practically studied and described on dimensions that are important for demonstrating long‐term safety?
  6. Can a transportation route be identified or developed by which used nuclear fuel can safely and securely be transported to the site from the locations at which it is stored?

These key safety‐related questions must be addressed through the development of a robust safety case. The site will be evaluated through a series of progressively more detailed scientific and technical assessments over a series of steps. 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. We are now beginning to implement this community‐driven process.


Transportation

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 for 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.

The key to ensuring safe transportation is the used fuel transport package (UFTP). It is designed and tested to ensure it will protect the public during normal operations, as well as during accident conditions. The package must meet a series of challenging performance requirements – specified by CNSC regulations and based on international standards – to demonstrate its ability to withstand severe impact, fire, and immersion in water.


Informed and willing host

The site selection process will require multiple years of study before a preferred site can be identified. Any potential community and site will be assessed against a number of factors, both technical and social in nature. First and foremost, the preferred site will be one that can safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel, protecting humans and the environment over the very long term. Secondly, locating the facility in the community must help foster the well‐being, or quality of life, of the local community and region in which it is implemented. Through the site selection process, the community and site will be assessed in a series of steps, with each step designed to evaluate the site in greater detail than the step before. 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. Ultimately, a compelling demonstration of willingness will be required, involving residents of the community, in order to host this project.

Best practice and experience suggest there are a range of approaches a community may use to demonstrate its willingness in a compelling way. These might include documented support expressed through such means as open community discussions, a telephone poll, online meetings or surveys, and/or 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.


Recognizing community leadership

Completing Phase 1 studies with the first eight communities in 2013 marked an important milestone in the site selection process and a scheduled point of stock‐taking. Guided by findings from this first phase of work, the NWMO began to take decisions about where it will focus the next phase of studies.

Communities engaged in learning have all made a significant contribution to advancing Canada’s plan to safely and securely manage used nuclear fuel over the long term:

  • The strong leadership of the communities that concluded Phase 1 studies has helped pave the way for the safe and secure long‐term management of used nuclear fuel in Canada.
  • They effectively launched the process for Canada, and through their willingness to learn about the project, they have advanced the implementation of our country’s plan.
  • Working directly with the NWMO, they have helped shape and evolve the activities and steps required in a siting process to ensure meaningful community involvement.
  • They led the way in defining how safety of the project needs to be demonstrated by raising questions and concerns, and by taking the lead on learning within their communities and among neighbours.
  • They have laid the basis for working in partnership with local communities, surrounding communities and Aboriginal peoples.

Through their active involvement in the site selection process, each of the communities has helped build understanding about how this project can be used as a foundation to further the objectives and well‐being of communities, while meeting the national need for safe long‐term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

After careful thought, the NWMO developed a program to acknowledge the substantial contribution made on behalf of all Canadians by communities as they conclude their respective Phase 1 studies. 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.
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 will be similarly recognized upon completion of their Phase 1 studies. For more information, you are encouraged to review information about this recognition on the NWMO web site: www.nwmo.ca/sitingprocess_recognition.