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Section H

Safety of Radioactive Waste Management

H.1 Scope of the section

This section addresses Article 11 (General Safety Requirements) to Article 17 (Institutional Measures After Closure). It provides a comprehensive description of radioactive waste management in Canada.

At every stage of radioactive waste management there are effective defences that protect individuals, society and the environment against potential hazards and the harmful effects of ionizing radiation now and into the future. In addition to describing facilities and their normal operation, this section describes the steps or controls that are in place, with the dual purpose to prevent accidents with radiological consequences and to mitigate their consequences should accidents occur.

The information contained in this section demonstrates that the requirements of the following applicable IAEA Safety Standards are addressed.

Article 11 - General Safety Requirements - IAEA Safety Requirements NS-R-1, WS-R-1 and WS-R-2

Article 13 - Siting of Proposed Facilities - IAEA Safety Requirement NS-R-3

Article 14 - Design and Construction of Facilities - IAEA Safety Requirements NS-R-1 and WS-R-1

Article 15 - Assessment of Safety of Facilities - IAEA Safety Requirements NS-R-1, WS-R-1 and Safety Series 115

Article 16 - Operation of Facilities - IAEA Safety Standards NS-R-1, WS-R-1WS-R-2 and Safety Series 115

H.2 Radioactive waste in Canada

Nuclear facilities and users of certain prescribed substances produce radioactive waste. The Government of Canada establishes the policy framework for the management of these wastes. The CNSC regulates the management of radioactive waste to ensure that it causes no undue radiological hazard to the health and safety of persons or to the environment. The radioactive content of the waste varies with the source. Management techniques, therefore, depend on the characteristics of the waste (see section H.3).

Certain types of radioactive waste, such as that from hospitals, universities and industry, contain only small amounts of radioactive materials with short half-lives. This means that radioactivity decays away in hours or days. After holding the waste until the radioactivity has decayed to the acceptable levels authorized by the CNSC, it can be disposed of by conventional means (in local landfill or sewer systems).

With the notable exception of waste from nuclear power plants - which is contaminated with long-lived radioisotopes - radioactive waste is generally shipped directly or via a waste broker to the waste management facility operated by AECL at its CRL. The typical storage facilities at CRL include shielded above-ground storage buildings, concrete bunkers and concrete tile holes. In some cases, radioactive waste is shipped to United States waste treatment and disposal facilities. For information on the amount shipped to the United States, please refer to Annex 5.1.8.

Canadian methods for the management of radioactive waste are similar to those of other countries. Primary emphasis is placed on minimization, volume reduction, conditioning and long-term storage of the waste, since long-term management facilities are not yet available. Radioactive waste is stored onsite or offsite, in above- or below-ground engineered structures. Some of the waste may be reduced in volume by compaction or incineration prior to storage. All radioactive waste currently generated is stored in such a way that it can be retrieved when necessary. Operators have instituted methods to recover storage space by cascading the waste after sufficient radioactive decay or reclaiming existing storage space through further compaction (super compaction), segregation or both.

As for all nuclear activities, the facilities for the handling radioactive waste must be licensed by the CNSC and conform to all pertinent regulations and licence conditions. The waste management objective throughout the industry - from mines to reactors - is the same, which is to control and limit the release of potentially harmful substances into the environment.

H.3 Characteristics of radioactive waste in Canada

H.3.1 Fuel manufacturing waste

In the past, wastes from refineries and conversion facilities were managed by means of direct in-ground burial. This practice was discontinued in 1988 after the closure of the Port Granby Waste Management Facility. The volume of low-level radioactive waste produced from these operations has been greatly reduced through recovery and reuse of feedstock materials, the conversion of waste materials into by-products and the decontamination of wastes for disposal with non-radioactive wastes. The residual volume of LLW now being produced is drummed and stored in warehouses pending the establishment of an appropriate long-term waste management facility. The seepage and runoff from the waste management facilities where direct in-ground burial was practiced continues to be collected and treated prior to discharge.

Fuel manufacturing waste consists of a variety of potentially uranium-contaminated wastes including the following:

  • uncontaminated and contaminated zirconium dioxide,
  • graphite crucibles used to cast billets,
  • filters,
  • scrap lumber,
  • pallets,
  • rags,
  • paper,
  • cardboard,
  • rubber,
  • plastic,
  • oils, and
  • solvents.

H.3.2 Electricity generation waste

Radioactive wastes resulting from nuclear reactor operations are stored in a variety of structures located in waste management facilities at nuclear reactor sites. Prior to storage, the volume of the wastes may be reduced by incineration, compaction, shredding or baling. In addition, there are facilities for the decontamination of parts and tools, laundering of protective clothing and the refurbishment and rehabilitation of equipment. Electricity generation waste consists of varying types of low- and intermediate-level activity waste such as:

  • filters,
  • light bulbs,
  • cable,
  • used equipment,
  • metals,
  • construction debris,
  • absorbents (sand, vermiculite, sweeping compound),
  • ion exchange resins,
  • reactor core components,
  • retube materials,
  • paper,
  • plastic,
  • rubber,
  • wood, and
  • organic liquids.

H.3.3 Historic waste

Historic LLW in Canada refers to LLW that was managed in the past in a manner no longer considered acceptable, but for which the current owner cannot reasonably be held responsible and for which the Government of Canada has accepted the long-term responsibility. In 1982, the Government of Canada established the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Office (LLRWMO) within AECL as the federal agent for the cleanup and management of historic low-level radioactive waste in Canada. NRCan provides policy direction and funding to the LLRWMO. The LLRWMO has completed historic waste cleanups across Canada and continues to monitor several sites with historic radium or uranium contamination. At some sites, materials have been placed in interim storage pending the development of a long-term management approach. Ongoing site monitoring, inspection and maintenance are conducted at these sites.

In keeping with the 1996 Policy Framework for Radioactive Waste, Canada has taken different approaches for the management of spent fuel, low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste and uranium mine and mill tailings. These different approaches reflect not only the different scientific and technical characteristics of the wastes, but also the economics and the geographic dimensions of Canada and the locations of the waste. Long-term strategies and solutions for historic LLW are evolving for the various regions of the country. The LLRWMO helps develop and implement the Government of Canada's strategic approach to historic waste management by working with communities and federal stakeholders to develop solutions to safely and cost-effectively reduce liabilities and associated risks. These community-based solutions apply sound waste management and environmental principles in the best interests of Canadians.

H.3.4 Radioisotope production and use waste

Radioisotope production and use generate a variety of radionuclides for commercial use, such as cobalt-60 for sterilization and cancer therapy units, and molybedenum-99 or other isotopes for use as tracers for medical research, diagnoses and therapy. A number of waste management facilities process and manage the wastes that result from the use of radioisotopes for research and medicine. In general, these facilities collect and package waste for shipment to approved storage sites. In some cases, the waste is incinerated or allowed to decay to insignificant radioactivity levels and then discharged into the municipal sewer system or municipal garbage system.

H.3.5 Uranium mining and milling waste

Uranium mining and milling waste comprises three major waste streams: mill tailings, waste rock and wastewater.

After ore is removed from the ground, either by underground mining or from an open pit, it is milled. The milling process, in which the ore is crushed and treated with chemicals, extracts the ore's uranium content, leaving a waste product known as mill tailings.

The method used to manage tailings from uranium mine operations varies from mine to mine. Much depends on where the mine is located. The quantity of tailings produced at any uranium mine is determined by the grade of the ore, as well as the size of the deposit. Canada's operating mines (all in northern Saskatchewan) have high-grade ore deposits in comparison to past mining operations in Canada; therefore, smaller volumes of tailings are being produced.

Due to a varying mineralogy, different mines use different chemicals, concentrates or mixtures of chemicals in the milling process. As a result, tailings vary in composition from mine to mine.

Tailings Management Facilities (TMFs) have evolved over the decades, from simple deposition into natural landforms and lakes to the construction of engineered surface storage facilities, complete with seepage collection systems to the current practice of placing the tailings in engineered mined-out open pits converted to TMFs. Tailings in modern facilities are covered with water (subaqueous deposition) to enhance radiation protection and avoid oxidization and winter freezing of the tailings.

Waste rock ranges from benign material, devoid of the metal or mineral being sought to mineralized material that contains sub-economical concentrations of the metal or mineral that was being extracted.

Waste rock characteristics are highly variable. Some waste rock contains sufficient concentrations of sulphide to generate moderate levels of acidity. This can mobilize potential contaminants from secondary minerals. In Saskatchewan, some waste rock contains secondary arsenic and nickel minerals, often to the point where the long-term care and control of these non-radioactive contaminants - not the waste rock's radioactivity - drive the level of care needed to manage it.

The wastewater (effluent) generated from mining and milling processes is treated as required and the treated water discharged to the environment is monitored to ensure it meets regulatory standards prescribed by the provincial and federal Governments. These limits ensure that the impact on the environment is minimal.

H.3.6 Radioactive waste at research reactors

At all research reactors, radioactive waste materials are segregated by licensees into short-lived and long-lived radioactive waste. Short-lived radioactive wastes are stored onsite to allow for decay until they can be disposed of in a conventional manner. Long-lived radioactive wastes are kept onsite temporarily until a certain amount or volume is accumulated; thereafter they are generally transported to AECL CRL for storage. This is also the case for trIUMF (TriUniversity Meson Facility) radioactive waste.

Liquid wastes from research reactors mostly consist of water that contains radioactive contamination. Typically, the water is cleaned up through a water purification system, which would include filtration and ion exchange. Once ion exchange resins are used up, they are stored with the long-lived radioactive waste that is eventually sent to AECL CRL. At the trIUMF (accelerator), there is also a small amount of contaminated oil, produced annually from oil used in the vacuum pumps. All of this slightly contaminated oil (approximately 2 litres per year) is presently stored onsite. Waste management at the AECL CRL is described in detail in Annex 5.

H.4 Waste minimization

The practice of waste minimization in Canada is currently not a regulatory requirement. It should, however, be noted that one of the key principles of the CNSC Regulatory Policy P-290, Managing Radioactive Waste, is that the generation of radioactive waste should be minimized as much as design measures and decommissioning practices allow. Regulatory Policy P-290 is presented in section B.5.

The Canadian nuclear sector actively promotes and practices waste minimization. For example, OPG policy is to minimize the production of radioactive waste at source by preventing materials from unnecessarily becoming radioactive. Waste minimization is also a key principle espoused in the Canadian industry standard CSA N292.3, Management of Low- and Intermediate-Level Waste. The Canadian nuclear sector practices waste minimization by:

  • implementing material control procedures to prevent materials from unnecessarily entering into radioactive areas,
  • implementing enhanced waste monitoring capabilities to reduce inclusion of non-radioactive wastes in radioactive wastes,
  • implementing improvements to waste handling facilities, and
  • enhancing employee training and awareness.

Canadian licensees follow various forms of waste minimization, depending upon site and operational specifics. As an example, OPG is implementing a number of waste minimization activities. Specific initiatives include the following:

  • establishment of a waste minimization culture at OPG,
  • material exclusion - take as little material into zoned areas as possible, particularly packaging,
  • use reusable equipment and materials as much as possible,
  • segregation of waste into waste and recycling at collection points,
  • use of washable protective equipment to replace disposable items, including rubber gloves, reusable booties, redesigned washable hoods, reusable bags, plastic wrapping and washable mops,
  • minimization of material entering zoned areas,
  • segregation of waste into radioactive and likely clean at many collection points for further monitoring and characterization of likely clean waste,
  • additional waste characterization,
  • use of industry best practices related to free release standards and segregation, and
  • development of suitable metrics to monitor improvements.

AECL is also undertaking similar activities and has a project underway to design, construct and operate a facility to enhance its capability to effectively utilize free-release standards and segregation.

H.5 General safety requirements

The main objective in the regulation of either a spent fuel dry storage facility or a radioactive waste management facility is to ensure that they and their activities do not pose unreasonable risks to health, safety, security and the environment. Canada's comprehensive licensing system, described in detail in section E.4, does not differentiate between a spent fuel management facility and a radioactive waste management facility. The design, construction and operation of either facility must ensure the safety of human health and the environment.

H.5.1 Protection and safety fundamentals

The regulation of spent fuel and radioactive waste can be divided into generic performance requirements, generic design and operational principles and performance criteria. These criteria are described in sections G.8.4 to G.8.6.

It is worthwhile noting that the uranium mine and mills governed by the same principles as those for spent fuel or radioactive waste are also governed by the Uranium Mines and Mills Regulations.

H.5.2 Safety requirements

Safety requirements for the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste must provide for the protection of the environment and the health and safety of workers and the public. During normal operations, spent fuel and radioactive waste management facilities must be operated in a safe manner. System components that may require periodic maintenance must be readily accessible and designed to permit safe and efficient maintenance. The safety requirements are described in detail in section G.8.7.

H.6 Protection of existing facilities

The safety of radioactive waste management facilities that existed when the Joint Convention entered into force was ensured through the Canadian regulatory regime. The operation of radioactive waste management facilities must be conducted in accordance with the NSCA, its associated regulations and the licence conditions. The CNSC compliance program activities verify that operators comply with the requirements for safe operation of radioactive waste management facilities. A list of facilities is included in section D.

H.6.1 Past practices

Legacy radioactive wastes at AECL sites date back to the Cold War and the birth of nuclear technologies in Canada. These include contaminated buildings that have been shut down and contaminated lands that are managed by AECL on behalf of the Government of Canada. The liabilities include high-level waste, in particular used research reactor fuel and high-level liquid waste from the production of medical isotopes and Cold War era fuel processing experiments. In 2006, the Government of Canada initiated the NLLP (as described in section K.5.2) to deal with the liabilities at AECL sites. A description of AECL waste management facilities is included in Annex 5.

In 1982, the Government of Canada established the LLRWMO within AECL as the federal agent for the cleanup and management of historic low-level radioactive waste in Canada. Canada's historic waste inventory consists largely of radium and uranium contaminated soils. The Government of Canada has accepted responsibility for the long-term management of this waste.

NRCan provides policy direction and funding to the LLRWMO, enabling it to carry out its work. The LLRWMO has completed historic waste cleanups across Canada and continues to monitor several sites with historic radium or uranium contamination. The bulk of Canada's historic low-level radioactive waste is located in the southern Ontario communities of Port Hope and Clarington. In March 2001, the Government of Canada and the local municipalities partnered on community developed proposals to address the cleanup and long-term management of these wastes. This partnership launched the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI). The PHAI and other initiatives to deal with historic waste are described in section K.5.3.

As already shown in section F.4, when remedial actions are required at uranium mine and mill tailings facilities where the owner no longer exists, the Government of Canada and provincial governments ensure that the sites are safely decommissioned. In Ontario, home of the former Elliot Lake uranium mining complex, the Governments of Canada and Ontario entered into a Memorandum of Agreement in 1996 that outlined their respective roles in the management of abandoned uranium mine and mill tailings. In keeping with the Policy Framework for Radioactive Waste, best efforts are made to identify the uranium producer or property owner of a site. Where such an owner cannot be identified, the governments have agreed to share costs, including a 50/50 sharing of costs associated with any necessary remediation. To date, these arrangements have not been necessary, as all Ontario sites have owners that are complying with their responsibilities.

In a similar vein, the Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan entered into a Memorandum of Agreement that defines roles and responsibilities for the remediation of certain cold war era uranium mine sites, principally the Gunnar mine and mill site in northern Saskatchewan. On April 2, 2007, the Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan announced the first phase of the cleanup. The total cost, which the governments will share, will be $24.6 million. NRCan has advanced $1.13 million as its share of Phase 1. A comprehensive environmental assessment of the project began on June 15, 2007. In October 2007, the Government of Saskatchewan and EnCana Corporation entered into an agreement for the decommissioning and reclamation of the nearby Lorado uranium mill site. The Gunnar and Lorado mine sites are described in Annex

H.7 Protection in the siting of proposed facilities

The Class I Nuclear Facilities Regulations stipulate a lifecycle licensing approach for radioactive waste management facilities:

  • a site preparation licence,
  • a construction licence,
  • an operating licence,
  • a decommissioning licence, and
  • an abandonment licence

The GNSCR, NSR, RPR, and NSRDR also have requirements that must be met.

The requirements for a licence to site a Class I radioactive waste management facility are listed in section 3 and 4 of the Class I Nuclear Facilities Regulations. Note that additional information is also required by section 3 of the GNSCR.

At the time this report was written, there were no contracting parties that could be affected by the siting of a nuclear waste facility in Canada. However, the United States and Canada have a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement that was concluded in 1955. Article 2 of that agreement provides for the exchange of “classified and unclassified information, etc., with respect to the application of atomic energy for peaceful uses, including research and development relating thereto, and including problems of health and safety.” Article 2 also covers the entire field of health and safety as it relates to the Joint Convention.

H.7.1 Public information programs

The CNSC's Regulatory Guide on public information programs is addressed in section G.10.1. Information on OPG's pubic information program for spent fuel is also addressed in section G.10.1. Information on OPG's existing public information program for its low- and intermediate-level waste storage (see section H.7.1.1) and an example of public information for a new uranium mine or mill (see section H.7.1.2) are included below.

H.7.1.1 Public information program for low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste storage

The following is an example of an existing public information program where spent fuel (see section 10.1) and radioactive waste are located. OPG operates an extensive public information program in the Municipality of Kincardine and surrounding communities where it has facilities to store low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste and spent fuel. For the last five years, OPG, in partnership with the host Municipality of Kincardine and surrounding communities, has worked to establish a Deep Geologic Repository for the long-term management of low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste. In support of current operations and this project, OPG operates a multi-tactical information program designed to inform and engage the public in dialogue and discussion on nuclear waste issues. Tactics include the use of advertising, brochures, videos, tours, briefings for community leaders, media and politicians, open houses, transportation seminars for first responders, newsletters, direct mailings, radio open line shows, speaking engagements, exhibits at many community events, sponsorships and, to reach beyond the local communities, extensive use of the internet where reports, brochures, videos and newsletters can be obtained. OPG considers itself a member of the communities in which it operates. It strives to be open and transparent in all its operations. 

H.7.1.2 Public information for a new uranium mine or mill

The CNSC is committed to operating with a high level of transparency. This includes engaging stakeholders, First Nations and other Aboriginal groups, such as the Environmental Quality Committee (EQC), through a variety of consultation processes, information sharing and communications.

An environmental assessment for a new uranium mine or mill - conducted either through a comprehensive study or through a panel review - provides significant opportunities for public participation. This includes encouraging the public to comment on draft Environmental Assessment Guidelines and the Comprehensive Study Report (CSR). Comprehensive studies and panel reviews also offer funding for people who wish to participate in the review. These funds are provided and administered by the CEA Agency. After the public hearing phase, the Commission Tribunal considers licence applications for new uranium mines as set out in the CNSC Rules of Procedure, available on the CNSC Web site at:

Typically, public hearings for licensing applications take place over two hearing days within a 90-day period, with public intervener submissions taking place on the second hearing day. Public hearings give affected parties and members of the public an opportunity to be heard before the Commission Tribunal. Usually, the Record of Proceedings and Reasons for Decision are published for the public within six weeks of the hearing. Refer to section E.4.3 for information on the public hearing process.

In addition to the formal licensing process, the CNSC encourages licence applicants to consult with the public about their plans for new uranium mines and mills during the pre-application phase. For example, the CNSC licensees travel to northern Saskatchewan where they host public information sessions about the Saskatchewan uranium mines and mills. Along with other organization, the CNSC personnel participate in these sessions. This allows the CNSC personnel to learn more about the local communities and the outreach activities prepared by licensees.

H.8 Design, construction and assessment of facilities

The second formal licensing step for nuclear facilities, including radioactive waste management facilities, is the construction licence. Requirements for a licence to construct a Class I nuclear facility are listed in sections 3 and 5 of the Class I Nuclear Facilities Regulations. Note that additional information is also required by section 3 of the GNSCR.

Before the CNSC can make a decision about whether to grant a licence to a party that has applied to construct a Class I radioactive waste management facility, the CNSC may have to initiate an environmental assessment. The CEA Act requires that early on in the project an integrated Environmental Assessment of the possible impacts on individuals, society and the environment of all licensing stages must be carried out. The CEA Act is further described in Annex 2.5. At the end of the environmental assessment process, if the CNSC concludes that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, licensing can proceed.

Regulatory Guide G-320, Assessing the Long-Term Safety of Radioactive Waste Management (see section B.6 of the Report) helps licensees and applicants assess long-term safety of storage and disposal of radioactive waste.

H.9 Operation of facilities

The third step in the licensing process is the operating licence. Requirements to operate a Class I nuclear facility are listed in sections 3 and 6 of the Class I Nuclear Facilities Regulations. Additional information, as indicated in sections 3 of the GNSCR and section 3 of the Class I Nuclear Facilities Regulations, is also required. The information includes such items as a safety analysis report, commissioning program, measures to prevent or mitigate releases of nuclear substances and hazardous substances to the environment and a preliminary decommissioning plan.

As a requirement of a licence to operate, the licensee must also keep a record of:

  • the results of effluent and environmental monitoring programs,
  • operating and maintenance procedures,
  • the results of the commissioning program,
  • the results of the inspection and maintenance programs,
  • the nature and amount of radiation, nuclear substances and hazardous substances within the
  • nuclear facility, and
  • the status of each worker's qualifications, re-qualification and training.

H.9.1 Criticality safety

Criticality safety requirements must address both normal and abnormal conditions. Criticality safety analysis must be performed when significant quantities of fissionable materials are stored or handled. The analysis must clearly demonstrate that the storage and handling of the nuclear waste is safe and, therefore, an inadvertent criticality cannot occur under normal (or credible abnormal) conditions. The analysis must consider the offsite consequences for low-probability, high-consequence inadvertent criticality events and demonstrate that the consequences of such events do not violate the public evacuation criteria established by international Standards (IAEA Safety Standards Series GS-R-2) and national guidelines (Canadian Guidelines for Intervention during a Nuclear Emergency).

H.10 Institutional measures after closure

H.10.1 Introduction

Article 17 applies to institutional measures that must be taken after a disposal facility has been closed. Disposal means that the radioactive waste is disposed of in a manner where there is no intent to retrieve it and that surveillance and monitoring is not required. Canada does not currently have a disposal facility. Examples of institutional controls for proposed future radioactive waste repositories are discussed in sections H.10.2 (i) and (ii). Decommissioned tailings management facilities require long-term institutional controls. These will vary from minimal - after the closure of the current generation of in-pit TMFs, which were designed for future decommissioning - to ongoing monitoring and maintenance programs at older sites where tailings have been deposited in surface facilities. Section H.10.3 describes the institutional control program developed by the Province of Saskatchewan for decommissioned mine sites, including former uranium mining and milling sites situated on Crown lands in that province.

Regulatory Body Requirements

Any proposal for the siting, construction and operation of a disposal facility must satisfy the requirements of the NSCA and its associated regulations as well as the CEA Act. If a licence application is received for a disposal facility, current nuclear regulations in Canada require that the CNSC oversee the nuclear inventory there. This implies perpetual licensing from the CNSC unless the risks are very minimal and oversight by another regulatory or governmental body allows the Commission Tribunal to exempt the site indefinitely from pursuing a CNSC licence. (This is determined on a case-by-case basis).

Several requirements are imposed by the NSCA and its associated regulations, including the following;

  • A licence from the CNSC must be held for anyone to possess and use nuclear substances.
  • Persons and the environment must be protected from unreasonable risk arising from the production, possession and use of nuclear substances and the development, production and use of nuclear energy.
  • A licensee must conform with international obligations to which Canada has agreed (such as the commitments in the Joint Convention Report).

Regulatory Guide-320, Assessing the Long-Term Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, helps licensees and applicants assess the long-term safety of storage and disposal of radioactive waste, including institutional controls (see section B.5). The Guide describes typical ways to assess the impacts that radioactive waste storage and disposal methods have on the environment and on the health and safety of people. It addresses topics that include the use of institutional controls.

After closure of a disposal facility, institutional controls may be a part of an abandonment licence application. Current Canadian regulations do not allow removal from licence control (abandonment) without an explicit exemption by the regulatory body. Such an exemption would require the licensee to present a safety case demonstrating long-term safety. The case would have to cite engineering design and barriers and/or other forms of institutional controls, including periodic site verification. The CNSC would examine on a case-by-case basis the proposed institutional controls for long-term safety, for cost, for consequences of failure of the institutional controls and for reliability of the institutional controls. The CNSC must be satisfied that the abandonment of the nuclear substance and the prescribed equipment or information does not pose an unreasonable risk to the environment or the health and safety of persons, or pose an unreasonable risk to national security or result in a failure to achieve conformity with measures of control and Canada's international obligations.

Pursuant to section 8 of the CNSC Class I Nuclear Facilities Regulations, an application for a licence to abandon a Class I nuclear facility that includes spent fuel management facilities shall contain the following information:

  • the name and location of the land, buildings, structures, components and equipment that are to be abandoned,
  • the proposed time and location of the abandonment,
  • the proposed method of, and procedure for abandonment,
  • the effects on the environment and the health and safety of persons that may result from the abandonment and the measures that will be taken to prevent or mitigate those effects,
  • the results of the decommissioning, and
  • the results of the environmental monitoring.


According to the GNSCR, every person is required to keep a record by the NSCA and shall retain the record for the period specified in the regulations. No person shall dispose of a record unless they are no longer required by the NSCA to keep the record or unless they have notified the regulatory body of the date of disposal and of the nature of the record at least 90 days before it is disposed.

In terms of an abandonment licence or an exemption from licensing, the records may also be required to be archived or stored indefinitely under the oversight of another government or regulatory body.

H.10.2 Examples of the use of institutional controls for proposed spent fuel and radioactive waste repositories

The following are examples of Canadian initiatives for repositories:

(i) NWMO's Proposed Repository for the Long-Term Management of Spent Fuel

On November 3, 2005, the NWMO submitted to the Government of Canada a final study Choosing a Way Forward - The Future Management of Canada's Used Nuclear Fuel and a recommendation. The recommended approach, APM, includes centralized containment and isolation of spent fuel in a deep geologic repository in a suitable rock formation. In June 2007, the Government of Canada issued its decision, accepting the APM as Canada's Plan.

After a decision is made to close the deep repository, a provision will come into play for post-closure monitoring of the facility. The precise nature and duration of post-closure monitoring and any requirements to restrict public access to the area will be developed collaboratively during implementation and take advantage of modern technology. This is a decision to be made by a future society.

(ii) Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) for Low- and Intermediate-Level Radioactive Waste

Regulatory approval processes following closure of this facility and dismantling of the surface facilities may require institutional controls to prevent the public from accessing the site for some period of time. For OPG's proposed DGR, it is expected that unrestricted access could be allowed eventually with all activities permitted except deep drilling (subject to any ongoing use of the site for nuclear activities). Restrictions could be put on zoning and land use. At the current stage of the DGR program, specific details of these and any additional activities have yet to be defined.

H.10.3 Example of the development of institutional control for decommissioned uranium mines and mills in Saskatchewan

An initiative is underway in the Province of Saskatchewan, entitled Institutional Control Program - Post Closure Management of Decommissioned Mine/Mill Properties on Crown Land in Saskatchewan (draft), under the auspices of the provincial Ministry of Energy and Resources (April 2008).

Since the last reporting period, Saskatchewan initiated the formal development of an institutional control framework for the long-term management of decommissioned mine and mill sites on provincial Crown land. The development of the framework was to ensure the health, safety and well-being of future generations, provide certainty and closure for the mining industry and recognize obligations by the province and national and international obligations for storage of radioactive materials. The Ministry of Energy and Resources has been assigned responsibility for the Institutional Control Registry. An interdepartmental Institutional Control Working Group (ICWG) of senior representatives from the Ministries of Environment, Energy and Resources, Northern Affairs, Justice, Finance and Executive Council developed a framework and consulted with stakeholders from the federal government, industry, Aboriginals and Northern residents, special interest groups and the general public.

In May 2006, the provincial legislature promulgated the Reclaimed Industrial Sites Act to implement and enforce a recognized need for institutional control. With the Reclaimed Industrial Sites Act in place, the ICWG proceeded with the development of the Reclaimed Industrial Sites Regulations, which were subsequently approved in March 2007. The Reclaimed Industrial Sites Act and Reclaimed Industrial Sites Regulations legislate the establishment of the Institutional Control Program (ICP). In the case of a former uranium mining or milling site, the ICP recognizes the jurisdictional authority of the NSCA as enforced by the CNSC.

The two primary components of the ICP are:

  • the Institutional Control Registry and the Institutional Control Funds, and
  • the Monitoring and Maintenance Fund and the Unforeseen Events Fund.

The Registry will maintain a formal record of closed sites, manage the funding and perform any required monitoring and maintenance work. Registry records will include the location and former operator, site description and historical records of activities, site maintenance, monitoring and inspection documentation and future allowable land use for the site. In the case of a decommissioned uranium mining or milling site, it will reference the related the CNSC documentation and decisions.

The Monitoring and Maintenance Fund will pay for long-term monitoring and maintenance. The Unforeseen Events Fund will pay for unforeseen future events. Examples of unforeseen events include damage resulting from floods, tornadoes or earthquakes. To reduce the province's risk when it accepts custodial responsibility for sites, and to offset the cost of future monitoring, maintenance and unforeseen events, dedicated site-specific funding will be established by the site holder. The funds will be managed by the province but are legislated and stand alone from provincial revenue.

The ICP completes the regulatory framework for the province, helping the province respond to industry's requirement for clarity in the investment climate and accepting responsibility for safety and environmental concerns. This helps create a sustainable mining industry and protects future generations.

The Ministry of Energy and Resources is responsible for the Institutional Control Registry. During a dialogue with the stakeholders a discussion paper was prepared to introduce the structure and operation of the Registry - and the requirements for a company applying to enter a site into the Registry. The discussion paper can be viewed at:

H.11 Monitoring programs

Each radioactive waste management facility in Canada must have in place an approved monitoring program. The monitoring program for a waste management facility must detect unsafe conditions and degradation of structures, systems and components that could result in an unsafe condition. This is how the performance of the individual storage structures - and the entire waste storage system - is evaluated. It helps ensure standards will create a safe environment for humans, non-human biota and the physical environment. For more information on environmental monitoring programs, refer to section F.6.6. Radiological effluent discharge levels for radioactive waste management facilities are provided throughout Annexes 5-8.

A typical monitoring program for a radioactive waste management facility, including a uranium mine tailings area, may include the following elements:

  • gamma radiation monitoring,
  • effluent monitoring, including airborne and liquid emissions,
  • an environmental monitoring program, which may include water quality, soil sampling, sediment sampling and fish sampling, and
  • surface water and groundwater monitoring.

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