Canada’s approach to the management of its used nuclear fuel is consistent with best practices around the world. Almost all countries with commercial nuclear power production are planning to isolate the waste by-product of their nuclear fuel cycle in a deep geological repository. They include: Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Like most countries with nuclear power programs, Canada’s nuclear generating stations use a "once-through" fuel cycle. A small number of countries partly recycle their used fuel in existing reactors. Some are conducting research on advanced reactors that could also recycle used nuclear fuel. There is currently no plan to recycle Canada's used nuclear fuel on a commercial scale.

Both existing recycling processes and advanced fuel cycles generate high level radioactive waste, a by-product with characteristics similar to used nuclear fuel. Studies conducted around the world have concluded that these high-level radioactive wastes should also be contained and isolated in a deep geological repository. Countries which do reprocess used nuclear fuel and others that are examining advanced fuel cycles, all have plans to implement deep geological repositories. For information about those countries please see the watching briefs.

The specific amount and type of used fuel to be placed in Canada's repository for long-term management will be agreed with the community using the best information available at the time, and through an open and transparent engagement process. This process will also involve surrounding communities and others who are interested and potentially affected.

To help anticipate any changes in fuel cycles used in Canada, and the types of waste that may need to be managed, we keep a watching brief on new developments. We update it annually.

Watching Briefs: Advanced Fuel Cycles

Small Modular Reactors