Low-level waste only for Canadian repository

02 November 2017

Only low-level radioactive waste will be disposed of in the planned Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) at Chalk River, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has announced. CNL made the decision not to include intermediate-level waste after reviewing comments and concerns expressed during a public comment period on the facility's draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) completed its technical assessment of the draft EIS for the facility in August. A consolidated table of federal comments, including the CNSC's assessment and those of other federal authorities participating in the review, was submitted back to CNL for action. This table included a number of comments and concerns related to the inclusion of intermediate-level waste in the facility, the CNSC said. Similar comments were also raised in submissions received during the public comment period on the EIS, it added.

CNL must address all federal and public comments received on the proposal before submitting its final EIS.

The NSDF has previously been described by CNL as a crucial step in the transformation of the Chalk River Laboratories site into a centre for world class science and technology innovation following the closure of the National Research Universal reactor next year 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. CNL earlier this year published a long-term strategy for the Ontario site which includes infrastructure investments of more than CAD1.2 billion ($873 million) over 10 years for the development of a new small modular reactor at the site by 2026.

The facility, an engineered containment mound able to hold 1 million cubic metres of waste, was initially intended to safely dispose of solid, low-level radioactive waste and a small amount of intermediate-level waste from Chalk River, including waste from demolition activities and operational waste currently in interim storage. It would also contain small quantities of waste from decommissioning projects at other governmental sites and from Canadian hospitals, universities and industrial clients.

CNL announced that it had "re-evaluated" its proposal for the NSDF in a Community Information Bulletin dated 27 October, in which it said waste intended for disposal in the facility will meet International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines for low-level radioactive waste.

"Intermediate level waste will continue to be managed in interim storage at Chalk River Laboratories until a long-term disposal solution for this category of radioactive waste has been developed and approved," it said.

The CNSC today said the environmental assessment process will continue, taking into account CNL's revised proposal. The regulator said it is awaiting documentation from CNL that details the revised waste inventory being proposed. This, along with CNL's responses to all federal, provincial and public comments, will be considered as part of the CNSC's ongoing environmental assessment review of the proposed project, it said. 

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News