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What is the NWMO?

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is a not-for-profit organization established in 2002 by Canada's nuclear electricity producers (Ontario Power Generation, New Brunswick Power and Hydro-Québec) as directed by the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA), which came into force November 15, 2002.

We were created with a mandate to develop an approach for the long-term care of Canada’s used nuclear fuel and to implement it after the approach was approved by the federal government. We developed this approach, called Adaptive Phased Management (APM) through an innovative and wide-ranging program of dialogue with scientists, experts in a wide range of disciplines, and interested Canadians across the country.

What is the NWMO's mandate?
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) was established in 2002 by Canada’s nuclear electricity producers in accordance with the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA). Operating on a not-for-profit basis under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, we are responsible for designing and implementing Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel.

We consulted with thousands of Canadians from 2002 to 2005 on options for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel. The Government selected our recommended approach of Adaptive Phased Management (APM) in June 2007 as Canada's plan.

We are now responsible for implementing APM, subject to all necessary regulatory approvals.
What is Canada's plan to manage used nuclear fuel?
Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel is called Adaptive Phased Management (APM).

The approach, which is both a technical method and a management system, emerged from a three-year dialogue with both experts and the general public. It is consistent with long-term management best practices adopted by other countries with nuclear power programs, such as Finland, France, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The end point of the technical method is the centralized containment and isolation of Canada's used fuel in a deep geological repository in an area with suitable geology and an informed and willing host. APM also involves the development of a transportation system to move the used fuel from the facilities where it is currently stored to the new site.

The management system involves realistic, manageable phases, each marked by explicit decision points. It allows for flexibility in the pace and manner of implementation, and fosters the sustained engagement of people and communities throughout its implementation.

APM is designed to meet rigorous safety standards throughout all aspects of its design and implementation.
How will people and the environment be protected?
Canada's plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel involves containing and isolating it in a deep geological repository.

The safety of people and the environment is the top priority in the process for selecting a repository site. We will need to demonstrate that any site selected can safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel for a very long period of time. There cannot be any credible risk from the repository to the public or the environment.

The repository will be located deep underground in a suitable rock formation, which must meet site selection technical criteria for the development of a robust safety case. This approach is consistent with international best practices, and is the culmination of more than 30 years of research, development and demonstration of technologies and techniques.

The repository uses multiple barriers that include the waste form, container, sealing materials and host rock. The system is designed such that the failure of one component would not jeopardize the safety of the containment system as a whole.

The project will also be subject to a thorough regulatory review process, including an environmental assessment and a licensing review to ensure that it is implemented in a manner that protects people and the environment.

Once placed in the repository, the used nuclear fuel will be monitored for an extended period of time.
How does the NWMO plan to address used fuel from small modular reactors (SMRs)?
The NWMO is responsible for implementing Canada's plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel, including that created using new or emerging technologies such as small modular reactors (SMRs). The Nuclear Fuel Waste Act requires us to provide services for managing nuclear fuel waste over the long-term at a fair and reasonable cost. 

In Canada there is an active research sector exploring new technologies such as SMRs. We encourage organizations developing new concepts to work with us to identify the types of fuel waste that may result. 

Fuel waste will need to meet certain criteria to ensure we can accept it and meet all safety requirements. For example, the waste will need to be a durable, solid material and transportable to the site. We will also need detailed information about characteristics such as composition, radionuclides, handling and the length of time since it was removed from a reactor.

Browse our frequently asked questions

  • Canada's plan
  • Deep geological repository
  • Site selection
  • Transporting used nuclear fuel

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