Whiteshell Laboratories

Aerial photo of Whiteshell Laboratories in Pinawa, Manitoba

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) established the Whiteshell Laboratories complex for nuclear research during the early 1960s. A major focus of the program at Whiteshell was the WR-1 organically cooled research reactor, which was shut down in 1985. The reactor is partially decommissioned and in safe storage awaiting final decommissioning.

In 1997, AECL decided to discontinue its programs at the site, and decommissioning planning began. Whiteshell’s decommissioning licence was originally issued in 2003 and renewed in 2008, and has been amended several times. The current licence expires in December 2018. The facilities are currently being decommissioned by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Ltd.

Facility Information

Location: Whiteshell Laboratories is located approximately 10 km west of Pinawa and 100 km northeast of Winnipeg, on the east bank of the Winnipeg River.
Licensee: Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Ltd. (CNL)
Status: In decommissioning phase
Licence expires: December 31, 2019

Latest facility-specific updates

Disclosure protocol

As part of the CNSC's regulatory requirements, major licensees must have robust public information and disclosure programs in place. View CNL’s Public Information Program on their In the Community page.

In situ decommissioning of Whiteshell Reactor #1

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is proposing to decommission Whiteshell Reactor #1 (WR-1 reactor), a former nuclear research reactor that operated until 1985, using an approach that was not previously assessed when the decommissioning licence was first issued. The WR-1 reactor is located at the Whiteshell Laboratories (WL) site in Pinawa, MB, approximately 100 km northeast of Winnipeg, near the towns of Lac du Bonnet and Seven Sisters.

CNL is proposing an in situ (leaving in place) decommissioning approach. In situ decommissioning involves preparing systems and structures for grouting. The below-grade grouted structure will encapsulate and contain radiological sources and hazardous materials for a defined period of institutional control.

The following activities are being proposed:

  • preparation for in situ decommissioning
  • grouting of below-grade (underground) structures and systems
  • removal of above-grade structures and systems
  • installation of engineered cover over grouted area
  • final site restoration
  • long-term care and maintenance activities

Under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, CNL’s proposal requires an amendment to its existing decommissioning waste facility licence issued by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Before the CNSC can make a licensing decision on this proposal, it requires an environmental assessment (EA) conducted under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and an EA decision affirming that the proposed activities will not cause significant adverse environmental effects.

On March 8, 2017, the Commission issued a decision on the extent of information to be included in the EA. The decision took into account the public comments received related to the project description, as well as CNSC staff recommendations. The Commission determined that the proposed project must include the factors mandated in paragraphs 19(1)(a) to (h) of CEAA 2012, with no additional factors requiring consideration.

Activities related to the environmental impact statement (EIS), environmental assessment (EA) and licensing

Project milestone Date Status
Notice of commencement of an environmental assessment (source: CEAA website) May 16, 2016 Complete
Public comments invited on project description (source: CEAA website) June 2 to July 4, 2016 Complete
Notice of participant funding offering June 3 to September 30, 2016 Complete
Public comments invited on CNL’s draft EIS (source: CEAA website) October 5, 2017 Complete
Public intervention period on the Commission member documents, including the EA report To be determined  
Commission hearing for EA and licensing decisions To be determined by Secretariat  

Additional information

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