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 The NWMO

 

What is the Nuclear Waste Management Organization?

What is the role of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization Advisory Council? 

Who is on the Nuclear Waste Management Organization Board of Directors? 

When does the NWMO report? 

What is used nuclear fuel? 

How much used nuclear fuel exists in Canada, and how is it being managed now?

 
 

What is the Nuclear Waste Management Organization?

 

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization was created by Canada's nuclear electricity producers to provide recommendations on the long-term management of used nuclear fuel and to implement the approach selected by the Government of Canada. Ontario Power Generation Inc., NB Power Nuclear and Hydro-Québec are the founding Members, and along with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited., fund the NWMO's operations.

The NWMO derives its national mandate from the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act, which came into force in November 2002.

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What is the role of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization Advisory Council?

 

The Advisory Council’s role is to provide independent comment every three years on the activities of the NWMO. The Council’s statements, which include observations on the results of NWMO public consultations and analysis of any significant socio-economic effects of the organization’s activities, are published in the NWMO’s triennial reports, beginning with the 2010 report. The Council is also obliged by the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act to comment on the organization’s five-year strategic plans and budget forecasts. Advisory Council comments are submitted to the Minister of Natural Resources Canada and made public at the same time.

In addition to its legislated reporting requirements, the Advisory Council outlines its activities on a yearly basis for inclusion in the NWMO Annual Report. The Council meets regularly with the NWMO, following closely the development of the organization’s plans and activities, and providing ongoing counsel and advice.

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Who is on the Nuclear Waste Management Organization Board of Directors?

 

The NWMO Board is composed of nine Directors appointed by the Member companies. Dr. Gary Kugler serves as Chairman, and Mr. Ken Nash is President and CEO. Others appointed by Ontario Power Generation are Mr. C. Ian Ross, Mr. Ron Jamieson, Dr. Deborah Poff, Mr. Pierre Charlebois and Mr. Donn Hanbidge. Ms. Josée Pilon is appointed by Hydro-Québec, and Mr. Darren Murphy is appointed by NB Power Nuclear.

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When does the NWMO report?

 

The NWMO was required to present its study and recommended approach to the Government of Canada by November 15, 2005. It did so on November 3, 2005. The organization is also required to report annually to the Minister of Natural Resources Canada, who tables the NWMO annual reports in Parliament. The NWMO’s reports are made public at the same time that they are submitted to the Minister.

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What is used nuclear fuel?

 

Used nuclear fuel is a by-product of electricity generation by nuclear power plants. Canadian nuclear power plants are fuelled by uranium pellets that are sealed inside zirconium tubes and arranged into fuel bundles. Once a fuel bundle has been used to generate electricity, it is highly radioactive and must be carefully managed for a very long period of time, essentially indefinitely.

Used nuclear fuel in Canada is safely managed on an interim basis in licensed facilities at nuclear reactor sites. The NWMO is responsible for its long-term management.

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How much used nuclear fuel exists in Canada, and how is it being managed now?

 

Canada has been generating electricity from nuclear power for more than 40 years. In that time, we have produced just over two million used fuel bundles. Each bundle is about the size and shape of a fireplace log, weighing approximately 24 kilograms. If the entire current inventory could be stacked like cordwood, they could fit into a space the size of six hockey rinks from the ice surface to the top of the boards.

Used nuclear fuel is safely stored on an interim basis in licensed facilities located at reactor sites where it is produced. After a fuel bundle is removed from a reactor, it is first placed in a water-filled pool for seven to 10 years where its heat and radioactivity decrease. Afterwards, used fuel bundles are typically placed in dry storage containers, silos or vaults.

About 85,000 used nuclear fuel bundles are produced in Canada each year.

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Adaptive Phased Management

 

What is Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel?

Why is this plan needed?

How was this plan developed?

Do Canadians support Adaptive Phased Management? How do you know?

What facilities will be constructed?

How will people and the environment be protected?

How will the project be regulated?

Where will the repository be located?

What are the transportation requirements?

Can used nuclear fuel be transported safely?

How much will the long-term management of used nuclear fuel cost?

Who will pay for it?

Will this facility manage foreign waste?

Does this plan legitimize new nuclear build?

How does Adaptive Phased Management compare with what others are doing?

Is Canada’s plan adaptable to new learning?

What are the NWMO’s next steps?

How can I follow the NWMO’s progress in implementing Adaptive Phased Management?

   
 

What is Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel? 

 

Canada's plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel is called Adaptive Phased Management. Adaptive Phased Management is both a technical method and a management system, with an emphasis on adaptability.

Technically, Adaptive Phased Management has as its end point the containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel in a deep geological repository constructed in an appropriate rock formation where the used fuel will be safely and securely contained by engineered barriers and the surrounding geology. The management system involves realistic, manageable phases – each marked by explicit decision points with continuing participation by interested Canadians. It is flexible, allowing for "go, no-go" decisions at each stage to take advantage of new knowledge or changing societal priorities.

The NWMO will seek an informed, willing community to host the repository, the underground demonstration facility and the associated centre of expertise that will be a hub for national and international scientific collaboration. Continuous learning and adaptability will underpin implementation of this high-technology, national infrastructure initiative that will unfold over many decades, subject to extensive regulatory approvals and oversight. The NWMO will involve citizens at all key stages and in decision-making through engagement that is transparent and inclusive.

Adaptive Phased Management provides an option for shallow underground storage at the central site if some or all the used fuel need to be moved before the deep repository is available. It also provides for continuous monitoring throughout implementation for retrievablity for an extended period.

Adaptive Phased Management is the plan that the NWMO recommended following its three-year study and dialogue with Canadians (2002-2005), and the plan approved by the Government of Canada in 2007.

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Why is this plan needed?

 

For decades Canadians have been using electricity generated by nuclear power reactors in Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec. When used nuclear fuel is removed from a reactor, it remains a potential health risk for many hundreds of thousands of years and must be safely isolated from people and the environment essentially indefinitely.

Today Canada’s used nuclear fuel is safely stored on an interim basis at licensed facilities located where it is produced. Like many other countries with nuclear power programs, Canada is planning for the future. Ensuring the long-term, safe and secure management of used nuclear fuel is an important responsibility we as Canadians share. Canadians have emphasized that safety and security are the top priority now and in the future, and that this generation must assume active responsibility for putting in place a plan for the long-term stewardship of used nuclear fuel.

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How was this plan developed? 

 

Adaptive Phased Management is the plan that emerged from a three-year study led by the NWMO from 2002 to 2005. The study engaged thousands of citizens, specialists and Aboriginal peoples in every province and territory as a range of management options were assessed. The plan draws on more than 30 years of research, development and demonstration of technologies and techniques in Canada and elsewhere. It is in line with best international practice and has been designed to meet the expectations expressed by Canadians throughout the study.

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Do Canadians support Adaptive Phased Management? How do you know?

 

The Adaptive Phased Management approach emerged from the three-year dialogue the NWMO had with Canadians and is responsive to the priorities they said were important. In dialogues after the recommendation was published in draft, most participants – except those who feel no long-term management approach is appropriate without first phasing out nuclear power – told us that on the overall, Adaptive Phased Management is a reasonable and appropriate approach for Canada.

During the study, individuals and groups with diverse perspectives proposed values and objectives to guide NWMO decision-making. The majority of those we engaged recognized the need to move forward and begin the process of implementing a long-term management approach for used nuclear fuel. Adaptive Phased Management has a clear direction with flexibility built in to explore areas where citizens wish to gain greater confidence.

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What facilities will be constructed?

 

This is a national infrastructure project that will involve the development of a deep geological repository with placement rooms for used nuclear fuel, approximately 500 metres underground. Supporting the repository will be an underground demonstration facility, surface buildings and a centre of expertise that will become a hub for national and international scientific collaboration.

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How will people and the environment be protected?

 

A multiple-barrier system will safely contain and isolate the used nuclear fuel. The repository and containers for used fuel are designed to provide multiple engineered barriers using robust, corrosion-resistant materials. A further barrier is provided by the host rock in which the repository is built. The geology provides the principle barrier between the used fuel containers and the surface environment. Many years of investigation will be involved in demonstrating that the geology in that location meets strict technical safety requirements. Once placed in the repository, the used nuclear fuel will be monitored and retrievable.

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How will the project be regulated?

 

The project will be subject to a thorough and comprehensive regulatory review process to ensure that it is implemented in a manner that protects people and the environment, now and in the future. The site selected will need to meet or exceed regulatory requirements.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) will review and assess the project and site locations, and ultimately, it will be responsible for issuing licences authorizing the project to proceed to different phases of its life cycle development. An environmental assessment will be required under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to ensure the project will not cause significant adverse environmental effects. Various aspects of transportation will also need to be approved.

The Government of Canada, through Natural Resources Canada, monitors the NWMO on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance with the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act.

Provincial legislation will cover many aspects of the project, including emergency preparedness, public and occupational health and safety, and environment. Municipal requirements will also need to be addressed.

In addition, a number of international treaties and agreements will apply. Canada is a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Canada/IAEA Safeguards Agreement. Operating under the jurisdiction of the CNSC, the NWMO will be required to manage itself in accordance with the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.

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Where will the repository be located?

 

The process for selecting a central site has been developed collaboratively with Canadians. The deep geological repository will be located in an informed and willing host community at a site that meets rigorous technical and safety criteria. The project will not be imposed on any community.

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What are the transportation requirements?

 

Used nuclear fuel will be transported from the interim storage facilities, where it is produced and safely managed now, to the centralized site of the deep geological repository. Depending on the location of the site, this may involve the use of road, rail or water transport, or a combination of these modes, which are used widely today internationally. The NWMO will need to demonstrate the safety and security of the transportation system to regulatory authorities and citizens before transportation of used nuclear fuel to the repository can begin. Transportation of the material will need to meet stringent requirements set out by Transport Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

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Can used nuclear fuel be transported safely?

 

Canadians can be confident that the material will be safely transported. There is a great deal of experience, both domestically and around the world, in the safe movement of used nuclear fuel.

Packages designed to transport used nuclear fuel are based on international standards and Canadian regulations. They are extremely robust and are tested to provide protection against the impact of a collision and the effects of fire and immersion in water.

Transporting radioactive materials is also a highly regulated activity. The NWMO will need to demonstrate the safety of any transportation system to the satisfaction of citizens and regulatory authorities before transportation of used fuel to the repository can begin. Transportation will need to meet stringent requirements laid out by Transport Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

The NWMO will need to demonstrate the safety of any transportation system prior to its implementation. Our research and discussions with authorities in Canada and abroad suggest that used nuclear fuel can be transported safely. Internationally, many nations have been regularly transporting used fuel for decades. Robust transport containers are designed to withstand severe accidents and transport conditions, and must meet high standards that are continually reviewed by regulatory and licensing bodies.

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How much will the long-term management of used nuclear fuel cost?

 

Over the life of the project, the long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel will cost $16 billion to $24 billion. As at January 1, 2010, the estimated present value cost is in the range of $7 billion to $8 billion. These estimates include costs for reactor site storage, which are carried out and funded by the individual waste owners; and costs to develop, construct and operate a central long-term facility, including a deep geological repository and transportation of the used nuclear fuel to the repository, which will be carried out and funded by the NWMO. The next generation of baseline cost estimates is expected to be completed in 2012.

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Who will pay for it?

 

The used fuel owners are responsible for all the costs. The Nuclear Fuel Waste Act requires that the planning, development and implementation of the project are funded by the major owners of used nuclear fuel in Canada: Ontario Power Generation, NB Power, Hydro-Québec and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. The Nuclear Fuel Waste Act also requires each of these four companies to establish independently managed trust funds and make annual deposits to ensure the money to fund the project will be available when needed.

The NWMO has the responsibility for maintaining a funding formula and establishing the amount of deposits to trust funds required by each company on an annual basis. The funding formula was approved by the Minister of Natural Resources Canada in April 2009. Audited financial statements of each of the nuclear fuel waste trust funds are posted on the NWMO website annually.

The NWMO may access the trust funds only for the purpose of implementing Adaptive Phased Management once a construction or operating licence has been issued under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

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Will this facility manage foreign waste?

 

No. The Nuclear Fuel Waste Act establishes a mandate for the NWMO to manage Canada’s used nuclear fuel. Adaptive Phased Management was developed collaboratively with Canadians to meet this mandate. The plan was recommended by the NWMO and approved by the Government of Canada on this basis.

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Does this plan legitimize new nuclear build?

 

The NWMO does not advocate one energy source over another. Used nuclear fuel exists and must be managed. Adaptive Phased Management addresses the need expressed by Canadians for safety, security and protection of the environment. The NWMO is committed to protecting both this and future generations in this regard. The organization has no view on energy choices.

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How does Adaptive Phased Management compare with what others are doing?

 

Internationally, countries are at different stages of designing or implementing their long-term management plans for used nuclear fuel. Canada’s plan for a multiple-barrier system based on a deep geological repository is consistent with programs that have been developed in many other countries with nuclear power programs such as Sweden, Finland, France and the United Kingdom.

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Is Canada’s plan adaptable to new learning?

 

Yes. By design, the plan builds in flexibility to act on new knowledge and adjust the way forward as necessary. In engaging with the NWMO, Canadians have underscored the importance of providing flexibility for future generations to shape decisions as the plan is designed and implemented over several decades. Many emphasized the importance of designing the repository in a way that allows for retrieval of the used fuel for an extended period, in order to provide future societies with access to the used fuel to take advantage of new technologies that may developed. Over this period of time, we may see changes in the priorities and preferences of Canadian society, evolution in public policy or advances in technology. The NWMO is committed to continuous learning to inform decision-making at each step along the way.

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What are the NWMO’s next steps?

 

Adaptive Phased Management is a long-term program that will be conducted in an open and transparent manner. The path forward will involve:

• Implementing the community-driven site selection process;

• Continuing to engage Canadians in formulating detailed plans and in making decisions;

• Advancing technical and social research in Canada and through international partnerships and collaboration;

• Continually updating our plans to align with ongoing technical and social developments;

• Building an organization with capabilities to implement Adaptive Phased Management; and

• Ensuring program costs and the funding formula remain updated.

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How can I follow the NWMO’s progress in implementing Adaptive Phased Management?

 

On an annual basis, the NWMO publishes a five-year Implementation Plan that establishes the objectives and milestone activities for the next five years.

In each Annual Report, published and submitted to the Minister of Natural Resources Canada, the NWMO reports on its progress over the previous year.

These reports are available on the NWMO website at www.nwmo.ca, along with other material supporting the implementation of Canada’s plan for managing used nuclear fuel over the long term.

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Site Selection Process

 

How was the site selection process developed?

Why did it take two years to develop the site selection process?

What are some of the features of the site selection process?

What facilities will be constructed?

How much land is required?

What are the transportation requirements?

How will people and the environment be protected?

How will the project be regulated?

How long will it take to confirm a site for the deep geological repository?

Has the NWMO identified some communities as potential hosts for the project?

Has the NWMO ruled out certain areas?

What are the benefits for a community and region that host the project?

How can I learn more about Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel?

   
 

How was the site selection process developed?

 

The process for selecting a site for the deep geological repository reflects the ideas, experience and best advice of a broad cross-section of Canadians who participated in dialogues conducted over a two-year period. Interested individuals and organizations shared their thoughts with the NWMO on what an open, transparent, fair and inclusive process for making this decision would include. The NWMO has also drawn on experiences and lessons learned in site selection processes in Canada and other countries.

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Why did it take two years to develop the site selection process?

 

The NWMO is committed to taking into account the views of all interested Canadians at each stage as we plan, design and implement Adaptive Phased Management. An important first step was the collaborative development of the site selection process.

In 2008 we invited interested organizations and individuals to contribute their suggestions and expectations for the principles, objectives and key elements that should guide the development of a fair and inclusive site selection process. With this input, we developed a proposed process.

Then, in 2009 the NWMO invited public review and comment on the proposed site selection process that was published in a discussion document. The comments received enabled the NWMO to refine and finalize the process.

The NWMO believes it is important to take the time required to ensure that an appropriate process that meets the expectations of Canadians is in place to guide decision-making on a location for this important national initiative.

Reports from the 2008 and 2009 dialogues are available at http://www.nwmo.ca/what_we_heard.

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What are some of the features of the site selection process?

 

The site selection process is designed to ensure, above all, that the site which is selected is safe and secure and meets the highest scientific, professional and ethical standards. The process contains a number of steps identified by a broad cross-section of Canadians who participated in a two-year dialogue on what an open, transparent, fair and inclusive process for decision-making on siting would include. It is built on a set of principles that reflect the values and priorities of Canadians on this issue, including a commitment to locate this national infrastructure initiative in a community that is informed and has demonstrated its willingness to host the project.

The process provides a road map for communities considering hosting the project to explore and understand how their well-being could be affected, including what challenges they might face, how they might benefit, and what commitments they will have to make before deciding if they wish to be considered to host the facility. The site selection process is available at www.nwmo.ca/sitingprocess.

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What facilities will be constructed?

 

This is a national infrastructure project that will involve the development of a deep geological repository with placement rooms for used nuclear fuel, approximately 500 metres underground. Supporting the repository will be an underground demonstration facility, surface buildings and a centre of expertise that will become a hub for national and international scientific collaboration.

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How much land is required?

 

The project will require a dedicated surface area of about 100 hectares (250 acres) for the surface buildings and associated facilities. The underground repository itself will occupy a subsurface area in suitable host rock of approximately 2.5 kilometres by 1.5 kilometres (375 hectares/930 acres) at a depth of about 500 metres.

The NWMO would need to have rights to the land above the underground repository, although alternative uses would be considered, with the community, for portions of this land. There may be a need to limit activities in the immediate area surrounding the surface facilities in order to meet regulatory or other requirements.

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What are the transportation requirements?

 

Used nuclear fuel will be transported from the interim storage facilities, where it is produced and safely managed now, to the centralized site of the deep geological repository. Depending on the location of the site, this may involve the use of road, rail or water transport, or a combination of these modes, which are used widely today internationally. The NWMO will need to demonstrate the safety and security of the transportation system to regulatory authorities and citizens before transportation of used nuclear fuel to the repository can begin. Transportation of the material will need to meet stringent requirements set out by Transport Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

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How will people and the environment be protected?

 

A multiple-barrier system will safely contain and isolate the used nuclear fuel. The repository and containers for used fuel are designed to provide multiple engineered barriers using robust, corrosion-resistant materials. A further barrier is provided by the host rock in which the repository is built. The geology provides the principle barrier between the used fuel containers and the surface environment. Many years of investigation will be involved in demonstrating that the geology in that location meets strict technical safety requirements. Once placed in the repository, the used nuclear fuel will be monitored and retrievable.

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How will the project be regulated?

 

The project will be subject to a thorough and comprehensive regulatory review process to ensure that it is implemented in a manner that protects people and the environment, now and in the future. The site selected will need to meet or exceed regulatory requirements.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) will review and assess the project and site locations, and ultimately it will be responsible for issuing licences authorizing the project to proceed to different phases of its life cycle development. An environmental assessment will be required under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to ensure the project will not cause significant adverse environmental effects. Various aspects of transportation will also need to be approved.

The Government of Canada, through Natural Resources Canada, monitors the NWMO on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance with the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act.

Provincial legislation will cover many aspects of the project including emergency preparedness, public and occupational health and safety, and environment. Municipal requirements will also need to be addressed.

In addition, a number of international treaties and agreements will apply. Canada is a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Canada/IAEA Safeguards Agreement. Operating under the jurisdiction of the CNSC, the NWMO will be required to manage itself in accordance with the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.

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How long will it take to confirm a site for the deep geological repository?

 

The process of site selection will be community-driven. Communities will determine if and when they wish to explore their potential interest with the NWMO. The nature, pace and manner of progressing through the phases of the site selection process will be determined in partnership with communities. The NWMO anticipates it may take 10 years before a specific site can be proposed. This is based on experiences with similar projects in other jurisdictions and the several years required to confirm all aspects of technical safety; understand potential social, economic, cultural and environmental effects of the project, and demonstrate community willingness.

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Has the NWMO identified some communities as potential hosts for the project?

 

No. The NWMO will be seeking an informed and willing community to host the project. The project will not be imposed on any community. Communities that are interested in learning more about the NWMO, Adaptive Phased Management and the deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel are invited to contact the NWMO. Communities that express interest in learning more are not obliged to participate in the site selection process.

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Has the NWMO ruled out certain areas?

 

No. Many areas in Canada have geological formations with the potential to safely and securely contain used nuclear fuel. However, detailed surface and subsurface investigations will be needed to confirm whether a specific site is in fact suitable. These detailed assessments will be undertaken on sites in communities that come forward with potential interest in hosting the project.

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What are the benefits for a community and region that host the project? 

 

The project will be implemented through a long-term partnership involving the community, the larger region in which it is located and the NWMO. It is important that it be implemented in a way that will help foster long-term well-being and sustainability. The development and operations of the facilities will generate thousands of jobs in the host region and potentially hundreds of jobs in a host community for many decades.

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How can I learn more about Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel?

 

The NWMO is providing opportunities for interested individuals, organizations and communities to learn more about Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel, the activities of the NWMO, and the process it will use to select an informed and willing community to host this project. Communities that express interest in learning more are not obliged to participate in the site selection process.

 

To learn more about these opportunities and this important initiative, please visit our website at www.nwmo.ca/sitingprocess or contact:

 

Nuclear Waste Management Organization

22 St. Clair Avenue East, 6th Floor

Toronto, ON M4T 2S3, Canada

Tel: 647.259.3012   Fax: 647.259.3692

Email: learnmore@nwmo.ca

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Fukushima

 

Introduction

The events at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plants (hereafter Fukushima) which were caused by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan have been the subject of review by nuclear and regulatory organizations in Canada and around the world.

One of the cornerstones of the NWMO’s Adaptive Phased Management, Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel, is a commitment to continuous learning from new developments, and adapting and refining its plans. The NWMO has considered the events in Japan and has examined the potential implications of Fukushima on the implementation of Adaptive Phased Management.

The overall findings from the NWMO’s review are summarized below:

 

What are the “lessons learned” based on the NWMO’s review of the events at Fukushima that are applicable to the implementation of Adaptive Phased Management?

How can Canadians be assured that a repository for used nuclear fuel will withstand extreme events such as an earthquake? 


 

What are the “lessons learned” based on the NWMO’s review of the events at Fukushima that are applicable to the implementation of Adaptive Phased Management?

 

The safety of the Adaptive Phased Management deep geological repository and used fuel transportation system is built upon a system of natural and engineered barriers which are designed to contain and isolate used nuclear fuel from people and the environment. The robustness of the transportation casks, used fuel containers and repository sealing systems, plus the stability of the geosphere over time, protects against natural events such as earthquakes, climate change and extreme events like glaciation.

The events at Fukushima were a strong reminder that we need to ensure that we consider a wide range of extreme events in our designs and safety analyses, and that we have an obligation to deal with uncertainty in our approach to long-term management of used nuclear fuel. Our path forward will be refined as we gain new knowledge and understanding.

The lessons learned from events at Fukushima for the implementation of Adaptive Phased Management include:

a) Beyond-design-basis accidents need to be carefully assessed by the NWMO and properly reflected in the engineering design, construction and operation of a deep geological repository and used fuel transportation system.

b) Safety analyses and emergency response planning need to consider a full range of low-probability, high-consequence events.

c) The potential impact of extreme natural events is more relevant during operation of the facility rather than during the postclosure period since major events are unlikely to affect conditions at repository depth.

The multi-barrier, defence-in-depth approach to used fuel management is a key component of the design to mitigate against the propagation and impact of low-probability, high-consequence events.

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How can Canadians be assured that a repository for used nuclear fuel will withstand extreme events such as an earthquake?

 

The principal objective of the Adaptive Phased Management deep geological repository is to safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel in a stable rock formation. The repository has been designed to protect people and the environment against a wide range of natural events, like earthquakes, in a passive manner without relying on active maintenance or active safety features such as backup power or cooling systems.

It is well-known that deep underground structures are more resilient to earthquakes than surface structures. Long-lived used fuel containers will be sealed in a deep geological formation using a multi-barrier system at a nominal depth of about 500 metres.

As well, the selection of a safe site for the repository is based on a comprehensive set of geoscientific criteria and a thorough site evaluation process which is expected to take seven to 10 years. The potential impact of earthquakes is a key component of the site evaluation process.

Current and future seismic activity is a critical technical evaluation criterion for selecting a site to safely host Canada’s deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel. To be selected, a site will have to satisfy a comprehensive set of geological siting criteria which include looking at active faults and seismicity. Any candidate site will be excluded if there are geological conditions that would make it unsafe.

Experience in Canada and internationally tells us that a good predictor of future performance is what has happened in the past. There are many deep geological formations in Canada that have remained stable for hundreds of millions of years despite numerous past events such as earthquakes and glaciation.

The Adaptive Phased Management deep geological repository will be designed and built in a manner that will ensure the integrity of the multi-barrier system for containing and isolating used nuclear fuel.

The deep geological repository and associated surface handling system will be subject to an environmental assessment and regulatory process by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to ensure that it can be implemented safely.

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Completed Phase 1 Preliminary Assessments

 

Which communities have been selected to move forward to Phase 2 of Preliminary Assessment in the NWMO site selection process?

Why has the NWMO narrowed down the number of communities involved in site selection?

On what basis did the NWMO narrow down the number of communities

What does this mean for communities not proceeding to Phase 2? 

What does continued involvement mean for communities proceeding to Phase 2? 

How will people and communities be engaged in Phase 2?

What if these communities decide they don’t want to pursue this project?

When will a community need to confirm willingness?

How does this impact the communities that haven’t yet completed Phase 1?

Why did you implement a recognition program for communities that completed Phase 1?

 
   
 

Which communities have been selected to move forward to Phase 2 of Preliminary Assessment in the NWMO site selection process?

 

Creighton in Saskatchewan, and Ignace, Hornepayne, Huron-Kinloss, Schreiber and South Bruce in Ontario, have been assessed as having strong potential to meet site selection requirements and have been identified for further study. These findings do not affect work ongoing in other communities involved in the site selection process.

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Why has the NWMO narrowed down the number of communities involved in site selection?

 

The objective of the site selection process is to arrive at a single location for Canada’s deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel and Centre of Expertise.

With 21 communities that requested preliminary assessments to support their interest in learning more and exploring their potential suitability for hosting the project, the site selection process must provide a basis for progressively identifying a smaller number of communities for more detailed assessment. Through increasingly more detailed studies, communities with strong potential to meet the project’s specific requirements will be identified to become the focus of further assessment.

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On what basis did the NWMO narrow down the number of communities?

 

Based on assessments and dialogues completed in the first phase of Preliminary Assessment, the NWMO selected for further study a smaller number of communities with strong potential for meeting strict safety requirements and for the project to align with the community’s long-term vision.

Findings to date do not confirm suitability of any site, and no community has expressed willingness in hosting the project at this early point. These findings do not impact work in other communities involved in earlier stages of the process.

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What does this mean for communities not proceeding to Phase 2?

 

Studies in these communities will not continue. Depending on their location, some communities not proceeding to Phase 2 may have opportunities to engage as part of the surrounding area for neighbouring communities that are proceeding to the next phase of study. The NWMO has also committed to keeping all communities that have been involved in Preliminary Assessments informed as progress continues.

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What does continued involvement mean for communities proceeding to Phase 2?

 

It is expected to take several more years to complete the necessary studies to identify a preferred site and an informed and willing host. For communities that continue, the next phase of work involves more intensive community learning and engagement. Work will take on a broader focus to include potentially affected First Nation and Métis communities and surrounding municipalities. This ongoing engagement will be important to understanding the potential to foster well-being of the broader area and the ability to work together to implement the project. Preliminary fieldwork will continue, and at a later date, limited borehole drilling, to further assess geology and site suitability against technical safety requirements.

As individual studies are completed, the NWMO will continue to gradually narrow its focus to areas with strong potential to be suitable for hosting a repository. Ultimately, the project will only proceed at a site that can safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel, and with the involvement of the interested community, First Nation and Métis communities and neighboring municipalities working together to implement it.

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How will people and communities be engaged in Phase 2?

 

Phase 2 studies will involve more intensive community learning and engagement. Work will take on a broader focus to include surrounding communities, and First Nations and Métis peoples. This ongoing engagement will be important to understanding the potential to foster well-being of the broader area and the ability to work together to implement the project.

As work progresses, transportation communities as a large group with a shared interest will also need to learn about the safety of transportation, and have their questions and concerns heard and taken into account in decision-making on a preferred site.

Communities entering the second phase of preliminary assessment studies as part of the site selection process are eligible to receive resources (funding and expertise) from the NWMO to enable the community to advance their learning about the project, and expand dialogue with potentially affected First Nation and Métis communities and others in the surrounding area.

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What if these communities decide they don’t want to pursue this project?

 

Communities can leave the process at any time until a preferred site is identified and the community confirms it is willing to proceed with the project.

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When will a community need to confirm willingness?

 

The process of selecting a site involves a number of steps, and a community will proceed from one step to the next only if it chooses to do so and if the work to assess the suitability of the site supports it. Over time and through increasingly detailed studies, it will become clearer which communities have strong potential to safely host the project, and the focus will narrow.

Ultimately, any potential host will need to be able to demonstrate it is both informed and willing to accept the project. This demonstration of willingness is not expected to be required for several years. We expect that communities will want to see the results of detailed studies so they can make an informed decision. The project will only proceed with the involvement of the interested community, potentially affected First Nations and Métis peoples and surrounding municipalities working together to implement it.

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How does this impact the communities that haven’t yet completed Phase 1?

 

The findings in communities that have completed Phase 1 do not impact work ongoing in other communities involved in the site selection process.

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Why did you implement a recognition program for communities that completed Phase 1?

 

As the first set of Phase 1 Preliminary Assessment studies were completed, the NWMO took the opportunity to reflect on the contribution communities have made to advancing Canada’s plan to safely and securely manage used nuclear fuel over the long term. After careful thought, the NWMO developed a program to acknowledge the substantial contribution made on behalf of all Canadians by these communities as they conclude their respective Phase 1 studies.

The process of selecting a site is driven by communities. The strong leadership of communities that have concluded Phase 1 studies has helped pave the way for the safe and secure long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

Through their leadership and willingness to learn, these communities have advanced implementation of this major national project.

  • They effectively launched the process for Canada, and through their willingness to learn about the project, they have advanced the implementation of our country’s plan.

  • Working directly with the NWMO, they have helped shape and evolve the activities and steps required in a siting process to ensure meaningful community involvement.

  • They led the way in defining how safety of the project needs to be demonstrated by raising questions and concerns, and by taking the lead on learning within their communities and among neighbours.

  • They have laid the basis for working in partnership with local communities, surrounding communities and First Nations and Métis peoples.

Through their active involvement in the site selection process, each of the communities has helped build understanding about how this project can be used as a foundation to further the objectives and well-being of communities, while meeting the national need for safe long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

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Contact Us
Nuclear Waste Management Organization
22 St. Clair Avenue East, Sixth Floor
Toronto, Ontario
M4T 2S3 Canada
Tel: 416.934.9814
Toll Free: 1.866.249.6966
Fax: 416.934.9526
Email: contactus@nwmo.ca

 

 

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Dec-18-2014 07:30:36 PM EST

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