How Nuclear Fuel Waste is Managed in Canada
Current Industry Practice
In Canada, nuclear waste producers and owners are responsible for interim management of used nuclear fuel. After remote-controlled removal from reactors, used fuel bundles are stored in water-filled pools, called Irradiated Fuel Bays, to cool and shield them until their heat and radioactivity declines. The bays are built of reinforced concrete, lined to prevent leaks, and designed to withstand earthquakes. Special tools are used to remotely manipulate the fuel bundles under water and move them into storage trays or modules.
After 7 to 10 years in water storage, used fuel bundles have cooled sufficiently that they can be transferred to dry storage containers. At reactor sites which operate dry storage facilities, the bundles are transferred into concrete canisters and placed in storage buildings, or transferred to steel fuel baskets and, using lead-lined casks, are placed in concrete silos or vaults.
Used Nuclear Fuel Storage Operations in Canada
Current used nuclear fuel storage operations in Canada are:
AECL - Chalk River Laboratories
Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) owned by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and located near Deep River, Ontario is a nuclear research establishment with test reactors, fuel inspection and other facilities. CRL houses a dry storage area for used nuclear fuel which is comprised of a base slab and 12 concrete silos. Most of the used fuel bundles in the CRL dry storage area are from the Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) reactor in Rolphton, Ontario, which was de-fuelled in 1987.
AECL - Whiteshell Laboratories
The Whiteshell Laboratories in southeastern Manitoba were established by AECL in the 1960's. A dry storage facility at Whiteshell Laboratories houses used fuel bundles from the now shutdown Douglas Point reactor, and non-standard fuel waste. The facility is comprised of a concrete slab and 16 storage silos.
AECL - Douglas Point Waste Management Facility
AECL's Douglas Point Generating Station (which was shutdown in 1986) is located in Kincardine, Ontario. The Douglas Point Waste Management Facility is adjacent to the power plant, and provides dry storage for the 22,256 used fuel bundles in concrete silos.
Hydro-Québec owns and operates Gentilly-2, a nuclear reactor located near the community of Trois-Rivières in Québec. Used fuel from the reactor is stored for a minimum of 7 years in Irradiated Fuel Bays, before being loaded into fuel baskets which are stored within concrete vaults.
A separate compound at the Gentilly site stores 3,213 used fuel bundles from the now de-fueled AECL Gentilly-1 reactor. The bundles are stored within eleven concrete silos inside a redundant turbine building.
New Brunswick Power
The Point Lepreau Generating Station, 40 km. west of St. John, New Brunswick is owned and operated by NB Power. Used fuel at the station is stored first in wet Irradiated Fuel Bays and then placed in dry storage silos which are on reinforced concrete foundations, and are passively cooled.
Ontario Power Generation
Ontario Power Generation is responsible for used fuel produced by the reactors at the Pickering, Darlington and Bruce Power Generating Stations in Ontario. All used fuel is initially stored in Irradiated Fuel Bays at the stations. OPG began operating Dry Storage Facilities in 1996. OPG's dry storage facilities consist of dry storage containers (DSC's - each can store 384 fuel bundles) within storage buildings. There are two storage buildings at the Pickering Generating Station site and plans have been proposed to further expand capacity. All used fuel at Darlington is currently stored in Irradiated Fuel Bays at the station, and approval is being sought to establish a dry storage facility on the site.
Bruce Power, which has operated the Bruce reactors in Kincardine since 2001, has an arrangement with OPG to manage used fuel from the reactors. OPG is also responsible for the used fuel produced by the Bruce reactors when Ontario Hydro operated the stations. The bulk of the fuel from the Bruce reactors is stored in Irradiated Fuel Bays at the station. OPG received an operating license for a used fuel dry storage facility (the OPG Western Waste Management Facility) in 2002, and has recently started to place used fuel in dry storage containers there.