Canada's plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel calls for its containment and isolation in a deep geological repository. The NWMO is committed to meeting or exceeding all applicable regulatory standards and requirements for protecting the health, safety and security of people and the environment.

Environmental Protection

Canada's nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), uses a comprehensive licensing system to ensure the environment is protected throughout the entire life cycle of a deep geological repository. It requires that adequate environmental protection policies, programs and procedures be implemented.

The CNSC can only take a licensing decision on a geologic repository after the completion of an environmental assessment, following the process established by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. An Environmental Assessment is a process that predicts the potential environmental effects of a proposed project before it is carried out. It incorporates environmental factors into decision-making. An environmental assessment examines:

  • Potential environmental effects
  • Mitigation measures
  • Significance of environmental effects that remain after mitigation
  • Follow-up monitoring

Impact Studies

As part of the Preliminary Assessment step in the site selection process, the NWMO will conduct a series of progressively more detailed impact studies of potential siting areas.

In Phase 1 of the Preliminary Assessment step, we completed preliminary desktop studies of environmental features and generic environmental effects in a number of potential siting areas. These studies are documented in the Phase 1 Integrated Reports. Environmental field studies are planned for communities that enter Phase 2 of this step.

Once a site has been selected, and the regulatory process for the project is formally underway, the NWMO will undertake comprehensive studies to identify the potential effects of the project on:

  • Air quality
  • Surface and groundwater quality
  • Terrestrial and aquatic environment (including plants, animals and fish)
  • Soil and geology
  • Human health
  • Use of land and resources
  • Social and economic environment
  • First Nation and Métis interests
  • Physical and cultural heritage