Franta, Jaro

English translation of submission by Mr. Gilles Sabourin (posted April 24, 2005).


This note was submitted to the NWMO in French, on 29 March 2005, by Mr. Gilles Sabourin (but is still not posted).

In their publication of 22 January 2005, “How the Advisory Council of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization Intends to Fulfill its Mandate,” (posted at,40,18,1,Documents&MediaID=2144&Filename=Advisory_Council_Statement_012205.pdf ), the Advisory Council declares on page 4:

“In conclusion, there is one other issue that requires comment. The legislation is silent on the question of the quantity of nuclear fuel waste that is to be managed by the recommended approach. In its examination and selection of management approaches, the NWMO will have to address the matter of capacity, and therefore of quantity. How much nuclear waste is it assumed that any given management approach will be able to handle? This question is tied to the larger policy question of the future of nuclear energy in Canada.

The Advisory Council would be critical of an NWMO recommendation of any management approach that makes provision for more nuclear fuel waste than the present generating plants are expected to create, unless it were linked to a clear statement about the need for broad public discussion of Canadian energy policy prior to a decision about future nuclear energy development. The potential role of nuclear energy in addressing Canada’s future electricity requirements needs to be placed within a much larger policy framework that examines the costs, benefits and hazards of all available forms of electrical energy supply, and that framework needs to make provision for comprehensive, informed public participation.”

I am surprised and very puzzled by this declaration.

In my opinion, the NWMO should evaluate a variety of possible scenarios.

Three obvious scenarios come to mind immediately:

1. Long-term use of nuclear reactors for electric power generation in Canada;

2. All reactors currently mothballed will be re-started and all existing reactors will be refurbished to extend their operating lives by about 30 years;

3. All reactors currently in operation will be dismantled at the end of their operating lives, without refurbishment.

The quantity of irradiated fuel produced by these three scenarios will vary considerably. I believe that the Advisory Council should re-examine its position on the quantity of nuclear fuel waste for the following two reasons:

1. Since there is no law restricting the quantity of irradiated fuel to be produced, it would be prudent and sensible for the NWMO to consider different scenarios. In this way, the NWMO would also better fulfill its mandate.

2. Accepting the Advisory Council’s position is risky. What would happen if the NWMO were to make its decision based only on irradiated fuel production from reactors currently operating to the end of their design lives, and then Canada proceeds to build a series of new reactors? At best, the NWMO’s selected solution could be extended to accommodate the increased quantity of irradiated fuel produced. At worst, a different solution would be required with a larger fuel quantity, and the entire process would need to be repeated as a result.

The Advisory Council’s hope of a grand public debate about Canada’s energy policy prior to any future nuclear power development ignores the political realities of Canada. Electric utilities fall under provincial jurisdiction, and as such, any debates about energy policy take place at the provincial level. For instance, Québec is currently running a parliamentary commission on the province’s future energy supply and security. All concerned individuals and groups residing in Québec were invited to present a submission to the commission. Its fair to say that quebecers would likely not look favourably on any suggestion to have their energy future decided in a national debate. The same no doubt applies in the case of Alberta or Ontario or any other province. Of course that applies not just to debates about nuclear plants, but also to coal or gas plants.

Neither the NWMO nor the Advisory Council should arbitrarily presume the future of nuclear energy in Canada. That is why the NWMO should instead recommend management solutions based on different scenarios of irradiated fuel production.

Jaro Franta


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