Forum: Waste storage facilities

In Canada, all radioactive waste is currently managed in interim storage facilities that are safe, secure, and environmentally sound. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission licenses and regulates monitors Canada’s waste management facilities to ensure they are operated safely.

The method of storage for radioactive waste can differ greatly depending on the radioactivity and heat generation of the waste.

The storage of radioactive waste must ensure that both human health and the environment will be protected, now and in the future, without imposing undue burdens on future generations.

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1. What are your views on how radioactive waste is currently stored in Canada?

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

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Ole Hendrickson's picture

It is a stretch to characterize waste storage at the federal government's Chalk River Labs (CRL) as safe and environmentally sound. The 2019 Annual Compliance Monitoring Report for CRL describes in considerable detail the radioactive groundwater contaminant plumes at CRL and their monitoring and treatment systems. To summarize briefly, in the Perch Lake basin, strontium-90 plumes from the Liquid Dispersal Area and Waste Management Areas A and B require continuing operation of three groundwater treatment systems. In the Maskinonge Lake basin, a “Wall and Curtain” passive groundwater treatment facility intercepts and treats the strontium-90 plume arising from the Nitrate Plant. Contaminant plumes from the NRX and NRU reactor facilities (he fuel bays) were for years leaking tritium and strontium-90. The resulting contaminant plumes now discharge directly into the Ottawa River untreated.

The federal government should move the sources of these radioactive contaminant plumes into secure long-term storage facilities, away from the river.

Furthermore, the federal government should establish a set of principles for waste storage. A starting point could be the following nine fundamental principles of radioactive waste management of the International Atomic Energy Agency

Principle 1: Protection of human health: Radioactive waste shall be managed in such a way as to secure an acceptable level of protection for human health.
Principle 2: Protection of the environment: Radioactive waste shall be managed in such a way as to provide an acceptable level of protection of the environment.
Principle 3: Protection beyond national borders: Radioactive waste shall be managed in such a way as to assure that possible effects on human health and the environment beyond national borders will be taken into account.
Principle 4: Protection of future generations: Radioactive waste shall be managed in such a way that predicted impacts on the health of future generations will not be greater than relevant levels of impact that are acceptable today.
Principle 5: Burdens on future generations: Radioactive waste shall be managed in such a way that will not impose undue burdens on future generations.
Principle 6: National legal framework: Radioactive waste shall be managed within an appropriate national legal framework including clear allocation of responsibilities and provision for independent regulatory functions.
Principle 7: Control of radioactive waste generation: Generation of radioactive waste shall be kept to the minimum practicable.
Principle 8: Radioactive waste generation and management interdependencies: Interdependencies among all steps in radioactive waste generation and management shall be appropriately taken into account.
Principle 9: Safety of facilities: The safety of facilities for radioactive waste management shall be appropriately assured during their lifetime.

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