Forum: Waste minimization

Waste minimization has the potential to reduce the impact to the environment from nuclear energy by reducing the amount and activity of waste for storage for long-term disposal.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission requires that waste owners in Canada minimize the generation of radioactive waste to the extent practicable.

Canada has adopted a set of guiding principles for waste minimization, referred to as the waste hierarchy, for minimizing waste volumes - particularly from decommissioning activities.

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Tell us what you think

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1. What are your views on waste minimization? Should Canada continue to use the concept of the waste hierarchy?

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2. What should be the role of Government, the regulator and waste owners with respect to minimizing radioactive waste?

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3. Are there other principles, beyond those identified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that you believe are important to consider when designing and implementing a waste minimization program?

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SarahGabrielleBaron's picture
SarahGabrielleBaron
Nov 16, 2020 - 15:18

This will be my first comment, of many, as I make my way through your discussion paper. Question #1 "my views on waste minimization". Your own paper defines waste minimization as, "The waste hierarchy states that prevention, reduction (minimization), re-using, and re-cycling, should be favoured before disposal. Disposal is the only appropriate strategy if all other options have been exhausted." This argument is being used to support development of SMR's because the radioactive spent fuel from current CANDU reactors will be 're-cycled' into high-grade radioactive fuel. What a load of garbage! This isn't "re-cycling" - it is a dangerous game producing weapons-grade plutonium with plans to ship it to both highly-populated and remote regions! This is the sort of chess-like misuse and misdirection used by our 'government' to pre-shape the end-game. The nuclear industry has its hand in the waste and production game equally, and so far they rob Peter (proper storage is abysmal in 2020) to pay Paul (they're hoped-for SMR daydream, currenly awash in fresh tax-payer grants). A simple lay-person like myself can see the misuse of conceptual frameworks from the outset. For shame! The only 'minimization' factor worth any credit is to turn these reactors off immediately, and focus all our attention on hydrogen, solar, wind, batteries, geothermal, smart-grid and building renovation technologies. Furthermore, your language around minimization includes, "...incineration and compaction. These technologies are commonly practiced internationally". I live directly downwind from the incinerator at Blind River and I have never, once, been publicly informed of the risks I endure as a gardener and citizen. To placate citizens with 'commonly practiced internationally' is a rhetorical salve used to misdirect and obfuscate. Tell us in your discussion papers exactly what is going on, and where, if you want us to participate in well-informed citiizen engagement. Otherwise, you are only engendering more mistrust.

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NRCan Engagement Team's picture
NRCan Engagement Team
Nov 20, 2020 - 17:38

Thank you Sarah for providing your views and feedback in this dialogue. For more information on where radioactive waste is located and stored in Canada, please see Canada’s Radioactive Waste Inventory Report. You can also read about Canada’s international commitment on radioactive waste management in Canada's National Report to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. We appreciate your participation in this engagement opportunity and welcome any additional comments within the forum or you can fill out this form.  

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Brian Beaton's picture

Thanks Sarah for your well informed and lived experience of dealing with the nuclear industry and its attempts to silence citizens with their well funded marketing narratives. I want to add to your list of concerns with "waste minimization". The 2015 "procurement process" of AECL assets to the private-sector contractor, Canadian Nuclear Energy Alliance (CNEA) resulted in "the transferred ownership of its subsidiary, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), to the CNEA. Under a Government-owned, Contractor-operated (GoCo) model, the Corporation delivers its mandate through long-term contracts with both the CNEA and CNL, together called “the contractor”. The Corporation retains ownership of all lands, facilities, intellectual property, other assets, and liabilities." (https://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_oag_201711_07_e_42672.html). This 2017 Auditor General report indicates that "$530 million for decommissioning and waste management" is being turned over this private sector consortium with the majority of partners being American corporations and SNC Lavalin (http://www.cnea.co/consortium-members/). With the new agreement between Canada and the United States to collaborate, waste management is part of this work (https://www.cnsc-ccsn.gc.ca/eng/resources/international-cooperation/inde...). The US recently announced its efforts to include low-level radioactive waste from nuclear reactors plants to be placed in municipal dumps. The reprocessing procedures for SMNRs required sealed containment of the existing high-level waste be opened so access the spent fuel so it can rendered into the SMNR fuel. All the existing containment concrete and devices are then waste that requires disposal. I have yet to see or read anything about the amount of radioactive waste that will be generated with this proposed "waste minimization" process or how this waste will be classified and how it will be safely disposed. My fear is that municipal dump sites will become the location for these types of wastes as the US is now proposing. In New Brunswick, Point Lepreau is located on the shore of the World Heritage Bay of Fundy. The last thing we need another Sellafield that has made the Irish Sea the most radioactive body of water in the world. The Bay of Fundy is too important to everyone in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and the world. Remote First Nations and indigenous communities are already over-subscribed with legacy impositions of far-away engineered "solutions" leaving them impoverished, without drinkable water sources, contaminated sites. The last thing they need is another engineered nuclear reactor in their community producing radioactive materials that will then require decommissioning and disposal after its short operational life (if they ever become a reality). These discussion papers seem to ignore these concerns and how they might be properly addressed by citizens. What is missing from these papers seems to me to be more important than what I am reading

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David Wood's picture
Nov 17, 2020 - 08:08

Some 8 years ago as a councilor for the municipality of South Bruce we began participating along with 8-10 other communities in what the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) referred to as a learning exercise in the process of disposing of all of Canada's spent nuclear fuel rods. (CANDU reactors) At that time we were told it was limited to the current stock pile of spent fuel and would be disposed of in a deep geological repository. Spent fuel from SMRs was not discussed because such reactors were unheard of at the time.
However, wording of NWMO's current fact sheets and confirmed by the Canada Nuclear Safety Commission at a community meeting, if we become "a willing host" the dgr site will have to adapt to any future incoming waste from the new reactors. ( I suppose that's why the NWMO calls this concept Adaptive Phased Management )
Within 2 years our community of some 5800 will be asked to decide as to whether we are an "informed and willing community" able to show as the NWMO has stated "a profound level of support" for this proposal. It seems to me difficult to come to such a conclusion in that time frame when the rules of engagement as to what we are getting dumped on us keep shifting to the unknown impacts that SMR's will bring.

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Jon's picture
Nov 18, 2020 - 17:59

It seems there is a missing component to considering the desired level of waste minimization, which also applies into the hierarchy selection process. The general principle of reducing waste and disposal is fine but should be informed by the energy requirement of reducing or moving between steps in the hierarchy of waste treatment. If it takes say 50 kWh energy to avoid a waste (per instance) that would use 10 kWh and 0.1m^2 in disposal, that might not be a step worth taking. The energy difference might be bring greater benefit applied elsewhere - maybe even just as additional energy supply to society at large.

I am also suspicious about the "endless" nature of "minimization", in the wrong PR hands.Obviously stretch goals help innovation - until they don't, because they're not feasible. But we should understand what is acceptable, not merely say "it must be as small as possible". So meet some objective criteria per unit energy, and get applauded or otherwise rewarded for continuing to do better. There isn't a zero waste system, and we shouldn't punish energy producers for waste that is at realistically acceptable levels.

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