CNSC completes review of disposal facility draft EIS

04 September 2017

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has completed its technical assessment of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) for radioactive waste from Canadian Nuclear Laboratories' Chalk River site. CNL must now address all federal and public comments received on the proposal before submitting its final EIS.

The Chalk River campus, pictured in 2015 (Image: CNL)

The CNSC has identified "a number of areas" where additional information will need to be included in the final EIS and other technical supporting documentation, it said. A consolidated table of federal comments, including the CNSC's assessment and those of other federal authorities participating in the review, has been submitted back to CNL for action. The list includes "almost 200" information requests and comments, the CNSC said.

CNL must now address all federal and public comments received and submit a final EIS to the CNSC. The regulator will then determine the completeness of the information provided in CNL's submissions, and may request further information. CNL is expected to submit the final EIS in January and the commission expects to hold a public hearing on the project in July.

According to CNL, the NSDF is a crucial first step in the transformation of Chalk River Laboratories site into a centre for world class science and technology innovation. The organisation earlier this year published its long-term vision for the site after the National Research Universal reactor closes down on 31 March 2018 after 60 years of operations. Revitalisation of the Chalk River Laboratories will involve the decommissioning of more than 100 buildings that have reached the end of their useful lives.

The NSDF will be an engineered containment mound built at the Chalk River site to safely dispose of solid, low-level radioactive waste and a small amount of intermediate-level waste. It will provide safe disposal for the demolition waste, as well as for operational waste currently in interim storage, plus small quantities of waste from decommissioning projects at other governmental sites. It will also accept small amounts of wastes - less than 5% of the total - from Canadian hospitals, universities and industrial clients. The mound will hold 1 million cubic metres of waste and feature ten waste disposal cells to be built in two phases.

Planned to have an operating life of at least 50 years, the proposed project would also include a wastewater treatment plant and supporting infrastructure. The cost to design, license, build and construct Phase 1 of the NSDF is estimated at CAD 215 million ($173 million), paid for by federal corporation Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. CNL estimates that the facility will cost a total of CAD 600 million over its lifetime. This includes the second-phase expansion, operating costs and 30 years of post-closure monitoring and surveillance.

Pending regulatory approvals, CNL's timeline for the project envisages construction of phase 1 beginning in 2018, with waste disposal beginning in 2020. Construction work is scheduled to begin on phase 2 in 2040.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News