This report demonstrates how Canada continues to meet its obligations under the terms of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. A collaboration by government, industry and the regulatory body, this document focuses specifically on the progress of long-term management initiatives for spent fuel and radioactive waste in Canada, revisions and updates to Canada's Second National Report and comments and issues raised at the Second Review Meeting. Specifically it includes additional information on:
- Canada's formal radioactive waste classification system,
- inventory of decommissioning waste generated during the reporting period,
- the regulatory hearing process, and
- effluent discharges.
2.0 Canada's key highlights and current priorities
- In June 2007, the Government of Canada selected the Adaptive Phased Management (APM) approach, recommended by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), for the long-term management of Canada's nuclear-fuel waste. (For more information about the NWMO, see sections G.17 and K.4.)
- The Government of Canada committed $520 million over five years to launch a long-term strategy for dealing with nuclear legacy liabilities at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) sites, specifically Chalk River Laboratories, Whiteshell Laboratories and the three prototype reactors. The work was initiated in April 2006. (For more information on the Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program (NLLP), see section K.5.2.)
- Both an environmental assessment (EA) and a regulatory review process for a site preparation and construction licence are underway for a deep geologic repository for the long-term management of Ontario Power Generation's low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste. (For more information, refer to section K.5.1.)
- In March 2007, the Government of Canada announced its decision on the EA for the Port Hope Project, one of two projects that address the cleanup and long-term management of historic low-level radioactive waste in the Port Hope area. The EA decision for the second project - the Port Granby Project - is expected in 2009. (See section K.5.3.1 for more information.)
- On April 2, 2007, the Government of Canada and the Province of Saskatchewan announced the first phase of the cleanup of closed uranium-mine and mill sites - principally Gunnar and Lorado - in northern Saskatchewan. (For more information, refer to Annex 126.96.36.199.)
- In 2008, the revised Nuclear Substances and Radiation Devices Regulations (NSRDR) came into effect. The revised regulations include clearance levels that are consistent with the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) recommendations. (For more information, see section E.3.2.)
- On January 1, 2006, the regulatory body implemented a Sealed Source Tracking System (SSTS) and a National Sealed Sources Registry (NSSR) for Category 1 and 2 sources. The CNSC launched a secure Web site for reporting SSTS transactions, using the Government of Canada's “E-pass” technology, seven months later. The NSSR is being expanded in 2008 to include Category 3, 4 and 5 sources. (For more information, refer to section J.4.)
3.0 Progress since the Second Review Meeting
During the peer review of Canada's Second National Report in 2006, Contracting Parties to the Second Review Meeting identified long-term waste management challenges and solutions. The following is an update on progress made in addressing these items:
3.1 Continue the progress for the long-term management by:
- sustaining the momentum for the implementation of long-term management approaches,
- fostering relationships gained through stakeholder consultation,
- maintaining a high level of expertise,
- ensuring that there are adequate human resources to implement future work,
- increasing regulatory efforts neccessary to support future industry initiatives, and
- continuing the production of supporting regulatory documentation.
3.1 (a) Sustaining momentum for the implementation of long-term management approaches
The following are examples of how momentum has been sustained for the implementation of long-term management approaches.
The NWMO received approval from the Government of Canada to begin implementing the APM approach for the long-term management of spent fuel. (See sections G.17 and K.4.)
Ontario Power Generation (OPG)
An EA and a regulatory review process for a site-preparation and construction licence are underway for a deep geologic repository for the long-term management of Ontario Power Generation's low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste. (For more information, refer to section K.5.1.)
The Government of Canada initiated the NLLP to deal with legacy radioactive waste and decommissioning liabilities at AECL sites, specifically Chalk River Laboratories, Whiteshell Laboratories and the three prototype reactors. The program includes the development and construction of the infrastructure required to characterize, condition, treat, process, package and store waste, as well as implement long-term solutions. These facilities will also manage the low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste generated by AECL's ongoing operations, as well as that accepted from third party generators. (For information on AECL's long-term management strategy for low- and intermediate-level waste, refer to section K.5.2.)
3.1 (b) Fostering relationships gained through stakeholder consultation
The following are examples of how relationships have been fostered through stakeholder consultation and what will be done to further develop these relationships.
Through continued commitment to dialogue and collaboration, the NWMO is building on the extensive relationships developed during the 2002-05 study phase. The NWMO continues to work with citizens, communities, all three levels of government, Aboriginal organizations, NGOs, industry and others. Since the Government's decision issued in June 2007, the NWMO has been inviting stakeholder input on what priorities NWMO should set as an implementer. The organization convened meetings and briefings, invited comments through the Web site, surveys and e-dialogues, and organized Citizen Panels in all four nuclear provinces with a view to understanding expectations for the NWMO's early implementation phase. A five-year plan was issued for public review and comment as the foundation for the NWMO's new mandate.
Future phases of engagement will focus on design and implementation of a siting process. A particular focus will be expanding relationships at the regional and local levels to support the development and initiation of the siting process in the four nuclear provinces (Ontario, New Brunswick, Québec and Saskatchewan). A discussion document is being prepared to initiate a multi-party dialogue in 2008 on the design process for selecting a site, the initial framework of objectives and principles and key issues to be considered. With this input, the NWMO plans to draft a siting-process proposal for public review and confirmation in 2009.
Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Organization (LLRWMO)
The LLRWMO's work under the direction of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) entails extensive stakeholder relations and communications, negotiation and accommodation of public client needs, as well as thoughtful planning. In communities where small volumes of waste are present, the LLRWMO will continue to strive to clean up the waste and either remove it or manage it in-situ, following NRCan's process of involving communities in the development of long-term solutions. The LLRWMO strives to maintain stakeholder confidence through open and transparent communications and engagement techniques.
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (the CNSC)
Part of the regulatory body's mandate is to disseminate information to all stakeholders. Since the last reporting period, the CNSC has established a Non-Governmental Organization Regulatory Affairs Committee to communicate and consult with NGOs on nuclear regulatory and policy matters. In addition to this forum, the CNSC also established links with an association of host communities of major nuclear facilities in early 2007. To ensure the needs of future stakeholders are met, the CNSC is proactively contacting communities likely to become involved in nuclear activities (such as mining and milling and waste management repositories) in the next decade.
3.1 (c) Ensuring that there are adequate human resources to implement future work
The following are examples of how organizations maintain a high level of expertise and ensure adequate human resources are available to implement future work.
The NWMO has begun to broaden and strengthen the organization's skills and capabilities to implement APM, and further growth is planned. APM involves a lengthy period of program development and operation and technical and social research program to ensure the human capacity to manage the implementation of APM today and in the future. In addition to maintaining in-house staff capability, NWMO is developing specialist networks with universities and the consulting community within Canada. Joint research, development and demonstration programs are underway internationally. Planned research programs play an important role in enabling Canada to benefit from leading technological innovation, while, at the same time, securing institutional memory, knowledge transfer and the technical capacity of the workforce required to implement APM in future years. The development of a youth-engagement strategy further recognizes the inter-generational nature of this work.
Following NRCan's policy and funding priorities, the LLRWMO will continue to respond to Canada's needs for historic low-level radioactive waste (LLW) management on a project-by-project basis. To accomplish this goal, the LLRWMO relies on its staff's expert core capabilities, which add value to the work of private sector contractors engaged to help execute specific projects. As an advisor and responder to LLW issues and, recognizing logistical requirements of its reactive community programs, the LLRWMO sustains and adjusts resource strength to maintain corporate knowledge and ensure appropriate procedures are developed, maintained and followed. The LLRWMO also maintains the human resources required to operate ongoing monitoring, inspection and environmental remediation programs across Canada. This maintenance of expertise in various fields not only makes the LLRWMO a knowledgeable consumer of contracted services, but also permits the specialized and professional development of products and projects for clients and stakeholders.
OPG's Nuclear Waste Management Division is currently comprised of approximately 300 full-time employees. Staffing demands have increased during the past three years and are expected to keep rising due primarily to attrition as a result of retirements. OPG recruited 36 personnel in 2005, 27 in 2006, 72 in 2007 and 41 between January and June of 2008. Staffing of the new Darlington Waste Management Facility, combined with attrition at the other nuclear waste facilities, accounts for the 2007 increase in recruitment. Skilled and semi-skilled tradespeople were recruited from within OPG, with an increasing emphasis on the external labour marketplace. Technical and engineering positions have been primarily filled through external selections and supplemented by university graduates hired through OPG's University Graduate Training Program. With continued emphasis on succession management, workforce planning and staff development in the Nuclear Waste Management Division is positively positioned to meet its qualified staffing requirements for both the short and long term. (For information on OPG's initiatives, refer to section F.3.3.)
Staff recruitment and retention has been one of the CNSC's key strategic objectives for several years. The current recruitment and retention strategy is now being reviewed, given the rapid growth of the organization to fulfill its mission. The CNSC faces challenges posed by an increasingly tight labour market, aging workforce and staff turnover. To overcome these challenges, the CNSC is emphasizing learning and development and focusing not only on experienced candidates, but also on junior, entry-level staff. Since the last reporting period, the CNSC's staff has grown by 30 percent. (See section E.8.2.)
3.1 (d) Increasing the regulatory efforts necessary to support future industry initiatives
Natural Resources Canada
The Government of Canada recently created the Major Projects Management Office (MPMO) within NRCan. The MPMO is a Government of Canada organization whose role is to help improve the regulatory system with respect to major resource projects and provide overarching project management and accountability for major resource projects in the federal regulatory review process. The MPMO serves as the single point of entry into the federal regulatory process for all stakeholders. It provides guidance to project proponents and other stakeholders, coordinates project agreements and timelines between federal departments and agencies, and tracks and monitors the progression of major resource projects through the federal regulatory review process.
The MPMO will monitor the federal regulatory review process for Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) Deep Geologic Repository (DGR). A work plan was developed with consideration given to the draft Joint Review Panel Agreement (JRPA) and the draft Aboriginal Consultation. The work plan is intended to improve the accountability, transparency, timeliness and predictability of the federal regulatory review process for the OPG DGR.
3.1 (e) Continuing production of supporting regulatory documentation
The CNSC has continued its production of support documentation, which leads to additional regulatory policies, standards and guides. Regulatory Guide G-320, Assessing the Long-Term Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, was published in December 2006. (Information on Regulatory Documentation is included in section E.3.3, and a list of regulatory documents is found in Annex 3.)
3.2 Financial guarantees
The CNSC's personnel have been working on the development of a new comprehensive policy concerning financial guarantees. While all major licensees with operating facilities have financial guarantees in place, the CNSC's personnel are currently reviewing the need for the broader application of financial assurances to all facilities and other licensed activities that currently are not required to post financial guarantees. The CNSC's personnel are also considering the need for financial guarantees for earlier phases of the licensing process, where financial assurances have previously not been required. Section F.4.3 provides further information on this initiative.
3.3 Approvals required for the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI) and the Deep Geologic Repository (OPG)
a) Port Hope Area Initiative
As reported in the First National Report, the Initiative began on March 29, 2001. The PHAI consists of two waste management projects: the Port Hope Project and the Port Granby Project.
At the time of writing this report, the Port Hope Project environmental assessment (EA) process has been completed, and the licensing process is well advanced. If all licensing documents are submitted by October 2008, it is estimated that the project could proceed to a licensing hearing in June 2009.
The EA Study Report (EASR) for the Port Granby Project was submitted in August 2007 to the Responsible and Federal Authorities (RAs and FAs). The proponent, LLRWMO, is currently working to complete an addendum to the EASR, addressing the comments from the RAs and FAs. For more information on the PHAI refer to section K.5.3.1
b) Deep Geologic Repository
The last report noted that OPG had announced its intention to develop a long-term approach for the current and future low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste from its 20 CANDU reactors. The approach ensures the waste's long-term isolation from the environment, without burdening future generations with its caretaking.
In December 2005, OPG submitted a letter of intent to construct the Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) to the regulatory body, thus initiating the EA process. The EA process is now underway, coincident with further geoscientific site investigations, conceptual design work and safety analyses. OPG submitted an application for a site preparation and construction licence in August 2007. The regulatory review of this application will be conducted in parallel with the EA review.
The current project schedule has the Environmental Impact Assessment being submitted in 2011 and a site-preparation and construction licence being issued in 2012. Earliest in-service is expected in 2018. (Further information on OPG's DGR can be found section K.5.1.)
3.4 Decommissioning old structures
The following is an update on the decommissioning activities, as reported in Canada's Second National Report. For information on decommissioning activities, please refer to Annex 7.
a) Cluff Lake
The majority of the decommissioning was completed in 2006, after two years of work to fill the Claude pit, demolish the mill, cover the tailings management area and re-slope and cover waste rock piles. (For more information on Cluff Lake decommissioning, including pictures, refer to Annex 7.6.)
b) AECL Facilities
Whiteshell Laboratories (WL)
WL has continued the activities planned in the initial phase of decommissioning, including those directed toward the shutdown and decontamination of nuclear and radioisotope laboratory buildings and facilities, with the aim of placing them in a safe, secure, interim end-state. Specifically, four buildings have been decommissioned and demolished at WL.
Decommissioning work at WL was accelerated in 2006, in keeping with the new long-term strategy adopted by the Government of Canada under the NLLP. In March 2008, AECL applied to renew the WL licence beyond 2008. The licence renewal application reflects the accelerated strategy, with decommissioning being completed in the period leading up to approximately 2024, with exception of the Whiteshell Reactor-1 (WR-1) and the Waste Management Area.
Chalk River Laboratories (CRL)
AECL submitted a project description to decommission the NRX ancillary buildings over several years. One or two structures would be decommissioned in any given year. The final end-state involves the complete removal and site remediation for some buildings, while others may be partially removed and taken to an interim end-state. The goal is to return the land occupied by all the buildings to the CRL-site landlord by 2025.
An EA was completed in 2007 for the decommissioning of the NRX fuel bays (A and B). The regulatory body approved two Advanced Decommissioning Work Packages to proceed with the removal of water from the A and B bays and approximately 30 metres of wooden building structure over the bays, and so create a fire separation between the NRX Fuel bay building and NRX Reactor. The A bays were cleaned to the best possible extent and were emptied in 2007. Future work will include the decontamination and removal of a 30-metre section of the building, to be completed in 2008. Sections of the B bays were drained and filled with sand, while the remaining sections were refilled with water. The emptying of the B bays will commence once final work is completed on the A bays. Lessons learned from the A bays will be incorporated into planning for the B bays. An application for decommissioning approval is expected in 2009.
The EA process for the Pool Test Reactor (Ptr) was completed in 2007. Lessons learned from the emptying of the NRX fuel rod bay will be incorporated into the Ptr planning documentation. An application for decommissioning approval is expected in 2010.
A separate EA process is currently underway for the Plutonium Tower, Plutonium Recovery Laboratory and the Waste Water Evaporator. Also, a decision about the decommissioning of the Heavy Water Upgrade Plant (HWUP) is expected in the spring of 2008. An application for decommissioning approval is expected in 2010.
NPD, Douglas Point and Gentilly-1
Three prototype power reactors (NPD, Douglas Point and Gentilly-1) have been partially decommissioned and put into a safe Storage-with-Surveillance state, pending final decommissioning. AECL owns and manages these three reactors under licences from the regulatory body. The NLLP (see section K.5.2) funds the management and decommissioning planning for the prototype reactors.
c) Research Reactor
The research reactor at Dalhousie University is still operational. A Detailed Decommissioning Plan and supporting documentation had not yet been submitted to the Canadian regulator.
d) Bruce Heavy Water Plant (BHWP)
The demolition of the BHWP was completed in 2006. The only standing activity associated with the demolition is the remediation of oil-contaminated soil from the effluent lagoons. The contaminated soil was removed from the lagoons and put into bioremediation cells during the summer of 2006. These remediation cells should be removed from the site in November 2008. (See Annex 7.7 for further information on the decommissioning.)
3.5 Progress on major projects
The Fuel Packaging and Storage (FPS) Project
The FPS Project was initiated to construct a facility to store certain legacy research-reactor fuel, along with the associated fuel drying and repackaging equipment. The facility is designed to store the older, experimental fuels from approximately 100 tile holes located at the Chalk River Laboratories, which are the most problematic and degraded fuel and storage conditions. The storage structure will be engineered for a life of at least 50 years and will provide safe and interim storage for the packaged fuel until a long-term storage facility is available. A decision on the EA is expected in the spring of 2008 and an application for construction approval is expected at the end of 2008.
Liquid Waste Transfer and Storage Project
In 2004, AECL initiated the Liquid Waste Transfer and Storage Project (LWTS), which is part of the Stored Liquid Waste Remediation Project at CRL. LWTS is being implemented under the NLLP (see section K.5.2.2) and involves the design, licensing, construction and commissioning of a new liquid waste storage facility to hold approximately 300,000 litres of legacy liquid waste, including high-level radioactive waste from medical isotope production and fuel reprocessing experiments. These liquids are currently stored in 21 tanks, which require replacement. The project consists of two major engineered systems: a Waste Storage System (WSS), and a Retrieval and Transfer (R&T) System. Conceptual design activities and an EASR, have been completed. The design of the WSS will be completed in early 2008 and an application for construction approval is expected at the end of 2008.
3.6 CSA's formal waste classification scheme to be considered
In March 2008, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) developed - in collaboration with industry, government and the regulatory body - a standard that includes a radioactive waste-classification system. The development of the radioactive waste classification system took into account both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards and the needs of the Canadian industry. The radioactive waste-classification system described below recognizes four main classes of radioactive waste:
- High-level Radioactive Waste (see section B.7.1)
- Intermediate-level Radioactive Waste (see section B.7.2)
- Low-level Radioactive Waste (see section B.7.3)
- Uranium Mine and Mill Waste (see section B.7.4)
Sub-classes for low-level wastes are also identified to provide better guidance on appropriate waste-management needs. (See section B.7 for more information.)
3.7 Amendment to regulations on exemption and clearance
In order to harmonize Canada's regulatory approach for the exemption and clearance of radioactive material with international practices, CNSC amended the NSRDRs to consider the IAEA Basic Safety Standards, as well as the most recent guidance from the IAEA on the concepts of exemption, exclusion and clearance. The amendments, following extensive stakeholder input, were approved by the Governor-in-Council, and subsequently published in the Canada Gazette Part II. The amended regulations came into force on April 17, 2008. (Refer to section E.3.2 for more information.)
3.8 NWMO's recommendation for managing Canada's nuclear fuel waste
NWMO's first mandate was to study options for the long-term management of spent fuel and make recommendations on proposed management methods to the Government of Canada by November 15, 2005. In 2005, NWMO completed its study and recommended APM to the Government of Canada, the end-point of which is a deep repository in an appropriate geologic formation. On June 14, 2007, the Government accepted NWMO`s recommendation. With that Government decision, NWMO has assumed responsibility for implementing the APM. (For more information on this long-term management plan for Canada's spent fuel, refer to sections G.17 and K.4.)
Spent fuel and radioactive waste in Canada are currently managed in storage facilities, which are safe, secure and environmentally sound. Canada recognizes that enhanced long-term management approaches will be required for its spent fuel and radioactive waste. This Third National Report identifies several key initiatives that demonstrate Canada's commitment to identifying and implementing long-term management approaches that do not place undue burden on future generations.
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