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About the Policy Review

Modernizing Canada's Radioactive Waste Policy > About the Policy Review

Canada’s Radioactive Waste Policy

The Government of Canada is dedicated to ensuring the safe management of radioactive waste. We want a policy that continues to meet international standards based on the best available science, and that reflects the values and principles of Canadians.

In February 2020, the Government announced it will be working with stakeholders and talking to Canadians to ensure that Canada continues to have a strong policy and clear path for the safe long-term management of all of Canada’s radioactive waste.

On November 16, 2020, the Minister of NRCan launched an inclusive engagement process to modernize Canada’s radioactive waste policy. NRCan officials are leading the engagement process with the support of other federal government departments with responsibilities for the management of radioactive waste in Canada.

Current Radioactive Waste Policy Framework

Canada’s Radioactive Waste Policy Framework (1996) consists of a set of principles governing the institutional and financial arrangements for disposal of radioactive waste by waste producers and owners. It outlines that:

  • The federal government will ensure that radioactive waste disposal is carried out in a safe, environmentally sound, comprehensive, cost-effective and integrated manner.
  • The federal government has the responsibility to develop policy, to regulate, and to oversee producers and owners to ensure that they comply with legal requirements and meet their funding and operational responsibilities in accordance with approved waste disposal plans.
  • The waste producers and owners are responsible, in accordance with the principle of “polluter pays,” for the funding, organization, management, and operation of disposal and other facilities required for their wastes. This recognizes that arrangements may be different for nuclear fuel waste, low-level radioactive waste and uranium mine and mill tailings.

The Policy Framework is supported by key federal legislation. Learn more about the current Policy Framework and other important legislation relating to radioactive waste management in Canada (Nuclear Safety and Control Act [2000] and Nuclear Fuel Waste Act [2002]).

Objectives of the review

The objectives of the policy review and modernization of Canada’s Radioactive Waste Policy are to:

  • Elaborate on the existing radioactive waste policy and provide clearer direction and greater leadership on radioactive waste management;
  • Stimulate and facilitate progress on the safe, effective, and environmentally acceptable management of radioactive waste in Canada; and
  • Continue to meet international standards based on the best available science, and reflect the values and principles of Canadians.

As part of the review, Natural Resources Canada engaged broadly with Indigenous peoples, interested citizens, provinces and territories, and the public.

Check out the What We Heard

What principles and processes are we using to engage?

  • Flexible – adaptive and sensitive to the current health crisis. Where feasible, this includes alternative virtual and remote engagement methods to respect the public’s health and well-being of the public regarding COVID-19.
  • Meaningful – informed engagement, based on a two-way dialogue that is understanding and responsive to concerns raised.
  • Respectful – of time, capacity, and priorities of prospective participants; seeking to involve Indigenous elders and traditional knowledge keepers while being attentive to traditional protocols.
  • Timely – providing adequate engagement timelines that allow Indigenous peoples, and other participants, to review the information and convey their perspectives.
  • Transparent – building trust through openness, predictability and transparency.
  • Broad-based and inclusive – providing an open engagement process for all Canadians, taking into account different capacities to participate.
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We will be engaging with Indigenous peoples, the general public, stakeholders, experts, and any other interested parties between launch and conclusion of the process in 2022 to review and modernize Canada’s Radioactive Waste Policy for future generations.

We shared Discussion Papers on key topics on which you provided your views.

We will be assembling a “What We Heard Report” to share the variety of perspectives that we have received.

Guiding values and principles of a modernized for Radioactive Waste Policy

Going into the engagement process, the core values and principles to the policy that are important to Canadians and Indigenous peoples must be part of the new forward-looking, modernized Radioactive Waste Policy. These principles include:

Safety of People and the Environment

Protecting the Safety of People and the Environment is the Government’s top priority when it comes to nuclear energy and the management of radioactive waste. As an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) member and in keeping with international requirements, Canada is committed to developing policies based on international practices and IAEA guidance for radioactive waste in a manner that protects human health and the environment without imposing undue burdens on future generations.

Openness, Transparency and Public Consultation

Openness, Transparency and Public Consultation are guiding principles of the Government of Canada, including all facets of radioactive waste management. From policy and regulatory development to project reviews, making government information available to Canadians transparently for public consumption is a priority for us.

Indigenous Reconciliation

The Government of Canada is deeply committed to advancing reconciliation and a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. No relationship is more important to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples. As laws and policies are developed and reviewed, the Government recognizes that Indigenous perspectives and rights must be incorporated. This approach reflects the Government’s commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As the review process of Canada’s for Radioactive Waste Policy proceeds, the Government will work with Indigenous peoples to ensure that it is aligned with the UN Declaration.

Natural Resources Canada is committed to building partnerships and providing more opportunities for Indigenous peoples through inclusive growth and sharing in Canada’s natural resources prosperity and development. This includes business opportunities, the development of programs and policies, a review of projects, and braiding and weaving Indigenous Knowledge to complement, enhance, supplement, and strengthen western science. Recognizing Indigenous peoples' shared interest in the review of Canada’s Radioactive Waste Policy, the Government will engage with Indigenous peoples in good faith and respect with the vision of creating a shared future in the management of radioactive waste in Canada.

The core principles of Safety of People and the Environment, Openness, Transparency and Public Engagement and Indigenous Reconciliation represent a few tenets of what the revised policy will entail.