This fall marks 15 years since the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) was established.
Since its creation in 2002, the NWMO has engaged with thousands of Canadians in hundreds of communities, first to develop Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel, and then to implement it.
“Canadians told us they wanted our generation to take action on used nuclear fuel, rather than leave it as a burden for the future. I am extremely proud of the NWMO’s collaborative approach toward achieving that goal,” NWMO CEO Laurie Swami said. “By working with people in municipal, First Nation and Métis communities as well as with specialists in Canada and around the world, we have built strong momentum toward implementing Canada’s plan.”
The journey began with Canada’s Nuclear Fuel Waste Act. The act required that nuclear fuel waste owners create an organization that would take a “comprehensive, integrated and economically sound approach” to Canada’s nuclear fuel waste. Shortly thereafter, the NWMO was born.
In the 15 years since, the NWMO has made significant progress. First, it worked together with Canadians to develop Canada’s plan – known as Adaptive Phased Management (APM). Over a period of three years, the approach emerged through dialogue with the general public, Indigenous peoples and specialists. It was selected by the federal government in 2007 to be the plan for Canada’s used nuclear fuel.
The technical end point of APM requires construction of a deep geological repository that will contain and isolate Canada’s used nuclear fuel. The plan also includes realistic, manageable phases and sustained engagement of people and communities throughout its implementation.
In 2010, a site selection process was started to find a willing and engaged host for the repository.
After 22 communities expressed interest in learning more, the NWMO’s specialists began working together with people in each area on an increasingly intensive process of study and engagement. Over time, the process has successfully and collaboratively narrowed the number of study areas to a handful. From these, a preferred site is expected to be identified by about 2023.
As it continues to implement Canada’s plan for used nuclear fuel, some of the hallmarks of the NWMO’s approach include attaining knowledge from Indigenous elders and youth, engaging with communities, collaborating with local and international technical specialists, and developing engineering breakthroughs.