News Release: NWMO Invites Comment

TORONTO, January 01, 2004 - The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) wants Canadians to help shape its study of how Canada's used nuclear fuel should be managed over the long term. The NWMO has published its first discussion document, "Asking the Right Questions? Future Management of Canada's Used Nuclear Fuel." The milestone report is an invitation to comment on how the organization proposes to assess nuclear fuel waste management options. It describes several possible technical methods, including three the NWMO is required to study, and it poses ten key questions that might be used to analyze them.

Early in its mandate the NWMO sought Canadian perspectives on how to approach its study and arrive at its recommendations. The discussion document is a reality check. It asks Canadians: Have we described the problem properly? Are the correct management approaches being considered? Are we asking the right questions about them? And, is our decision-making process understandable and appropriate?

"We want to keep people informed of our progress every step of the way," said NWMO president Elizabeth Dowdeswell. "Our open and transparent process is providing Canadians with a common foundation of understandable information so that they can make informed decisions about this important and difficult public policy issue. By reporting periodically, and allowing people time to think through the issues and contribute their perspectives, we will ensure that there are no surprises when we take our recommendations to Ottawa," she added.

The NWMO was established by nuclear fuel waste owners under provisions of the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act, 2002. The legislation requires the NWMO to recommend to the Government of Canada a plan for long-term nuclear waste management. In fulfilling its mandate, the organization is committed to finding a management approach that is socially acceptable, environmentally responsible, technically sound, and economically feasible.

There are more than 1.7 million used nuclear fuel bundles stored in Canada. They are highly radioactive and require careful management so that they do not pose danger to humans or the environment. Current storage practices are safe, well-regulated, and licensed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. But they are intended to be interim. Like many other countries, Canada is now on a path to develop a long-term management approach.

The NWMO will utilize a number of engagement techniques, including its website, over the course of its study. Comments, questions and concerns that are raised will help shape the detailed assessment of options and will be reflected in another discussion paper expected in mid-2004. The organization will then present its recommendations for scrutiny in a draft final report which will be issued before its study and an implementation plan is delivered to the Minister of Natural Resources Canada in November, 2005.

"Asking the Right Questions? Future Management of Canada's Used Nuclear Fuel" is available for download at: