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What We Heard Report – DIS-16-03

DIS-16-03, Radioactive Waste Management and Decommissioning


Discussion papers play an important role in the selection and development of the regulatory framework and regulatory program of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). They are used to solicit early feedback on CNSC policies or approaches.

The use of discussion papers early in the regulatory process underlines the CNSC’s commitment to a transparent consultation process. The CNSC analyzes and considers preliminary feedback when determining the type and nature of requirements and guidance to issue.


DIS-16-03, Radioactive Waste Management and Decommissioning, was used to solicit feedback on the proposal to update and clarify the CNSC’s regulatory framework as it relates to waste and decommissioning. The paper presented several potential changes to CNSC regulations and supporting regulatory documents. Stakeholder feedback was sought on opportunities to incorporate Canadian and international best practices and to update CNSC documents with more modern terminology. In addition, the CNSC sought to improve clarity and predictability for applicants and other stakeholders by clearly indicating the information that licence applicants are expected to submit. The CNSC will consider feedback received on DIS-16-03 in its efforts to improve its regulatory framework for waste management and decommissioning.

Consultation process

The CNSC published this discussion paper for a 120-day public comment period on May 13, 2016. Comments were received from 18 organizations and individuals, and were posted on the CNSC website for feedback between October 13 and November 2, 2016.

Summary of stakeholder comments

A wide variety of comments were received. Comments expressed concern about the potential for increased burden on licensees as a result of the proposed new regulations and regulatory documents. Many comments highlighted areas where more guidance and clarification may be beneficial.

Comments fell into five general themes. Each theme is discussed below and accompanied by an indication of how the CNSC plans to address feedback received.

Early information on the new CNSC regulatory documents on waste management and decommissioning will be provided when drafts of these documents are published for consultation. Additional outreach may also be pursued as needed.

Theme 1: Input on proposed categories of radioactive waste

Summary of comments

Licensees commented that the creation and enforcement of a prescriptive set of definitions of radioactive waste categories could require significant characterization of historic waste. They also stated that this would result in substantial work to review legacy records, increased costs, and potentially even dose to workers if new measurements must be taken or if waste must be relocated. Furthermore, a requirement to use certain categories could impact the waste facilities’ safety cases if these facilities would then need to accept new kinds of waste. Industry further recommended that the definitions of radioactive waste be consistent with CSA N292.0, General principles for the management of radioactive waste and irradiated fuel, and also requested the addition of a very low-level waste (VLLW) category. Commenters also requested a more detailed discussion of mixed waste hazards associated with the different categories of waste. Other commenters expressed that the descriptions of the waste categories, particularly of high-level waste and of uranium mine and mill tailings, are overly generalized and lack sufficient detail.

Theme 2: "Reduce, reuse, recycle" principle in regulation

Summary of comments

Licensees expressed concern over embedding the "reduce, reuse, recycle" requirement in regulation because of the challenges of implementation, including lack of viable or cost-effective options. Other commenters expressed concern with some potential interpretations, such as the recycling of substances that did not meet the exemption criteria. It was also recognized that waste minimization is a related concept.

Theme 3: Alternatives to issuing a licence to abandon

Summary of comments

Industry expressed support for alternatives to issuing a licence to abandon, given the potential for misunderstanding of the purpose of a licence titled in that way. Several stakeholders proposed alternatives. Many licensees expressed support for the concept of a release from licensing at the end of a project life, in accordance with arrangements for the perpetual care of a site and of any nuclear substances present, rather than the issuance of a licence to abandon.

A variety of commenters registered the importance of the perpetual care and polluter-pays principles as they relate to licensing at the end of life of a project.

Theme 4: Licensing waste management, decommissioning operations and remediation, and waste management program requirements

Summary of comments

Licensees were generally supportive of separate regulatory documents for long-term waste management facilities, as opposed to more general guidance. Comments indicated that additional clarity of licence application requirements for different waste operations would be beneficial; for example, requirements for waste processing facilities versus waste disposal facilities. Many licensees also suggested keeping current requirements for interim waste management facilities. In general, licensees supported a risk-based approach and suggested that the CNSC clarify its expectations in regulatory documents.

Many licensees support waste management programs founded on a risk-based approach, where the stringency of requirements is based on the hazards present, and suggest that regulatory documents align with CSA N292. One licensee raised concerns for implementing new requirements where mature waste management programs currently exist. Licensees generally supported combining existing documents without creating new requirements.

Licensees raised the concern that remediation may require a different type of licence instead of being allowed under an operating or decommissioning licence. Clarity was requested on what is meant by "institutional control" and how it should be applied to the long term management of a remediated site, and where institutional control fits into the licensing process.

Stakeholders expressed various levels of support for stand-alone waste regulations. Most commenters also indicated that additional detail on specific regulatory proposals would be required in order to provide better feedback.

Next steps

At this time, the CNSC intends to draft regulatory documents that will supersede existing CNSC regulatory documentation, ensure guidance is aligned with all applicable regulations under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA), and provide consolidated guidance on radioactive waste management and decommissioning of nuclear facilities. In the process of organizing and continuously improving its catalogue of existing and planned regulatory documents, the CNSC intends to publish REGDOC-2.11.1, Waste Management Programs, which will combine, update and expand guidance previously provided in these three documents: RD/GD-370, Management of Uranium Mine Waste Rock and Mill Tailings; G-320, Assessing the Long term Safety of Radioactive Waste Management; and P-290, Managing Radioactive Waste. The new REGDOC-2.11.11 will contain definitions of categories of radioactive waste (based on those included in this discussion paper as well as CSA N292.0 and relevant international standards), and take into account feedback received on DIS-16-03. A draft of REGDOG-2.11.1 is expected to be published for public comment in 2018 before it is finalized. Licensees and other interested parties will be encouraged to submit additional comments when this draft is published. Other upcoming draft regulatory documents addressing radioactive waste management and decommissioning will also be forthcoming. In particular, REGDOC-1.2.1, Guidance on Site Characterization Activities, and REGDOC 2.11.2, Decommissioning, will provide guidance for licensees performing these types of activities. More detail on planned upcoming draft regulatory documents is available on the CNSC’s Regulatory Framework Plan Web page.

The CNSC acknowledges comments about the "reduce, reuse, recycle" principle. The CNSC agrees with comments on the importance of the perpetual care and polluter-pays principles as they relate to licensing at the end of the life of a project. These concepts form an important part of the CNSC’s philosophy for the management of nuclear projects throughout their lifecycle and at the end of a project. Given the importance of providing adequate guidance around this principle, the CNSC will consider this feedback in the upcoming REGDOC-2.11.1, Waste Management Programs, scheduled for draft publication in 2018. The CNSC will welcome additional comments as part of the draft document process at that time.

Regarding stand-alone waste regulations, the CNSC acknowledges that the concepts around stand-alone waste regulations, as presented in DIS-16-03, were high-level. The CNSC intends to consult in greater depth with stakeholders at a later date and will consider the feedback received through this discussion paper in developing future proposals.

Domestic and international standards – in particular, consensus standards produced by the CSA Group – can be an important component of the CNSC's regulatory framework. Standards can support the regulatory requirements established through the NSCA, its regulations and licences by setting out the necessary elements for acceptable design and performance at a regulated facility or a regulated activity. Standards are one of the tools used by the CNSC to evaluate if licensees are qualified to carry out licensed activities. Standards that the CNSC considers appropriate are integrated into the regulatory framework and form part of its expectations, after a thorough review by CNSC staff to ensure that the standard is appropriate to address a given area. The CNSC participates in the technical committee for CSA N292, and will ensure that the guidance provided in this series will be considered in the development of subsequent CNSC materials.

The CNSC is always looking for ways to improve its regulatory framework and welcomes feedback at any time.


Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
P.O. Box 1046, Station B
280 Slater Street
Ottawa, ON K1P 5S9
Fax: 613-995-5086

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