Canada to modernise and integrate nuclear waste management policy

17 November 2020

The Canadian government has launched an engagement process to "modernise" the country's radioactive waste policy. At the same time, it has asked the Nuclear Waste Management Organisation (NWMO) to lead a dialogue to develop an integrated strategy for Canada's radioactive waste.

(Image: NWMO)

"Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is our top priority when it comes to nuclear energy," Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O'Regan said. "The views of Canadians and the best science will direct us as we build our net-zero future."

The first part of the modernisation process - known as the engagement phase - will run until the end of March 2021. The Government of Canada will engage directly with stakeholders via a website through a series of workshops, roundtables, bilateral meetings and online forums. Discussion papers on key policy topics will be used to support the engagement.

A final "What We Heard Report" will be published at the end of the engagement process, which, after a 30-day public comment period, will be used to shape the modernised policy. The policy itself is scheduled for public release in the autumn of 2021.

O'Regan requested NWMO - a not-for-profit organisation which is responsible under Canadian law for the long-term management of the nation's used nuclear fuel - to lead a dialogue to develop an integrated strategy for all Canada's radioactive waste through close collaboration among waste owners and producers, Indigenous peoples and other interested Canadians.

In a letter to NWMO President and CEO Laurie Swami, O'Regan said the strategy should build on the plan developed by NWMO for the long-term management of Canada's nuclear fuel waste and its development must be carried out "in a manner that is open, transparent, and inclusive, and that is built on a solid foundation of trust, integrity and respect for all Canadians."

The dialogue should not detract from NWMO's current mandate to implement Canada's plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel - also known as Adaptive Phased Management - O'Regan said. "I would also emphasise that this dialogue and the resulting Integrated Strategy are not intended to replace other projects currently in progress," he added.

"This is important work, and we look forward to lending our expertise to make informed and practical recommendations to the Canadian government on a more comprehensive radioactive waste management strategy for low- and intermediate-level waste," Swami said.

Canada's low and intermediate-level radioactive waste is currently managed in interim storage. Such wastes are currently the responsibility of the nuclear utilities and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, according to World Nuclear Association.

"While Canada has a robust framework to ensure the safety of nuclear energy, we must continue to modernize Canada's radioactive waste policy to promote long-term management solutions, which align with international standards and best practices," Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) said. "Nuclear power will play a significant role in helping Canada meet its commitment of net-zero emissions by 2050, creating jobs and economic opportunity across the country and around the world. Modernising the existing Radioactive Waste Policy is critical for the government to continue to protect public health and safety and the environment."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News