Category Archives: Waste Management

Environment Nuclear Safety Waste Management

The Deep Geologic Repository and Canadian Nuclear Safety

By Dr. John Barrett
President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association

Now that it has closed the record on its extensive public hearings, the Joint Review Panel appointed to examine OPG’s Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) can get on with the final phase of its work – developing recommendations.

The panel faces a difficult task. Should it recommend that the project proceed? Or should it prefer that low- and intermediate-level waste remain stored in concrete trenches and warehouses above ground?

It’s not an easy choice, because either approach yields the same result – safe, secure storage of radioactive materials.

In two appearances before the review panel, the Canadian Nuclear Association expressed confidence in OPG’s proposed repository. The company has developed a credible case for moving its waste underground – a plan developed with input from many specialists from a wide variety of disciplines.

OPG concluded—and I have seen no persuasive evidence otherwise—that the repository will likely not cause significant adverse environmental effects.

It’s significant that three federal departments, as well as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), all reached the same conclusion upon reviewing OPG’s case.  In short, OPG has more than satisfied the need to assess properly the risks posed by the DGR.

There exist four waste-management options. Two require storage above ground, and two below ground. A review by a panel of independent experts has shown all four options, including the proposed DGR, can be carried out safely and securely. Any one of them would do. The real question is whether any option is inherently better than the others.

The answer finds its roots in our sense of moral responsibility. My generation, and yours, benefitted from the use of nuclear-generated electricity. We also bear responsibility for the waste. We should manage it. The DGR provides a way to do so safely and securely. In the end, the joint panel will assess whether the repository provides a responsible improvement on current practice.

Observers should not fail to note the broader issue – that the nuclear industry, alone in the energy sector, takes full responsibility for managing its waste. We do so safely and securely, using ample detection and alert systems to ensure public and environmental safety.

Could we do better? Certainly. We can always improve safety. At the same time, let us recognize that the Canadian nuclear industry enjoys an impressive safety record.

In fact, the nuclear regulator recently concluded that no fatalities related to radiation safety have ever occurred in the Canadian nuclear industry. How many industrial activities of any kind–let alone of nuclear’s scale and complexity–have this kind of record?

Guest Blog Nuclear Safety Waste Management

CNSC Response to ‘Debate Over Possible Nearby Nuclear Waste Site Buried’

The letter below is a response from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to an editorial that appeared last week in the Whig and the London Free Press. The CNA responded as well (you can read our response here). The CNSC is the federal government agency that regulates the use of nuclear energy and materials to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment.  The editorial to which the CNSC’s Ramzi Jammal is responding was by a UWO professor – who writes about nuclear non-proliferation, but is not an expert in the regulation of nuclear energy or waste materials. Let’s get the straight goods from someone who is an expert in these issues.

 

CNSC response to the letter entitled ‘Debate over possible nearby nuclear waste site buried’ published in the Kingston Whig-Standard and London Free Press on July 21, 2012

Ramzi Jammal Executive Vice-President Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Your July 21 guest editorial by University of Western Ontario professor Erika Simpson, entitled ‘Debate over possible nearby nuclear waste site buried’, compels me to correct some inaccurate and erroneous statements that may confuse your readers.

To begin with, the author is confusing two completely distinct projects: Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) proposed deep geologic repository to manage low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste produced from the continued operation of the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington nuclear generating stations; and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s (NWMO) Adaptive Phased Management (APM) project for the long-term management Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

The article’s author was correct in stating that OPG’s project is for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste and does not include used nuclear fuel. But she then proceeds to speak of used nuclear fuel and to further confuse several other different issues.

The OPG project is for the long-term management of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste from the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington nuclear generating stations. This waste includes such things as tools, rags, filters, resins, refurbishment waste, and other radioactive contaminated materials. The government has appointed a panel to conduct the environmental assessment and the first stages of licensing for the project. Public hearings for the project are likely to be held next year in the Bruce area. More information about this project is available at nuclearsafety.gc.ca and www.opg.com.

The long-term management of used nuclear fuel is a separate project being managed by the NWMO which was established in 2002. In May 2010, the NWMO launched its Site Selection Process to identify a willing community to host a geological repository for the long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel. As of July 7, 2012, 19 communities have formally expressed interest in learning more about the APM project to host a deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel. More information about this project is available at www.nwmo.ca.

The NWMO’s project is still considered in its very early stages, and once the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission receives a licence application, it will carry out its due diligence in terms of safety and regulatory requirements. More information about CNSC’s early role in this project is available at nuclearsafety.gc.ca.

Your guest editorialist’s allusion that the CNSC is not independent is completely false. I would like to emphasize that the Commission is a quasi-judicial administrative tribunal, independent from any political, government or private sector influence. It is the Commission Members, and only the Commission Members, who render decisions based on all the evidence presented in the context of a hearing process.

The CNSC’s mandate is very simple. To ensure that nuclear activities are done in a manner that protects the environment as well as the health, safety and security of workers and the public and to implement Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

In the future, I encourage anyone writing for your publication to contact the CNSC in order to provide your newspaper’s editorialists with the facts, and as a result, editorials with more rigour and thoroughness, something this one is sorely lacking.

Ramzi Jammal
Executive Vice-President
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

CNA Responds Nuclear Safety Waste Management

DGR for Nuclear Materials is the Responsible Step

This article attempts to weigh the pros and cons of building a Deep Geological Repository (DGR) for Canada’s low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste material but really just ends up confusing the matter. We’re wondering exactly what are the cons of managing waste responsibly, something our industry does every day anyway. Plus, there’s a big difference between used-fuel and low-level waste.

There is a lot of misinformation in the article and we think it’s important to address some of it here.

Conceptual design of a Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) Source: Ontario Power Generation

DGR for nuclear materials is the responsible step

The proposed deep geological repository (DGR) is a responsible step Canada’s nuclear industry is taking for the long-term storage of low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste material, which is already extremely well managed.  Ontario Power Generation (OPG), with the support of Bruce County municipalities, is proposing to construct and operate the DGR.

The Joint Review Panel (JRP) for this project is holding a six-month public comment period which provides an opportunity for the JRP, public, interested stakeholders, and aboriginal communities to review and comment on it.

Low-level waste (LLW) is not used fuel.  Rather, it consists of minimally radioactive materials that have become contaminated during routine clean-up and maintenance in the generating stations. Materials include mop heads, cloths, paper towels, floor sweepings and protective clothing. No special protection is required when handling LLW. Intermediate-level waste (ILW) is also not used fuel; it consists of resins and filters used to keep the reactors’ water systems clean as well as irradiated reactor core components associated with the refurbishment of reactors. This waste, while much less radioactive than used fuel, is more radioactive than LLW and regulations require shielding to protect workers during its handling.

A four-year program of geoscientific investigations, safety assessment, engineering and design, and environmental field studies contributed to the environmental assessment process that concluded the DGR will not cause significant adverse effects to the environment or the public. This documentation will be the subject of a very thorough and robust regulatory and public review process, held in an open and transparent manner, to ensure the proposed DGR is safe for the public and environment.

There are several examples of other countries that are utilizing geologic repositories for the safe management of their L&ILW, including Sweden, Finland and the United States.  The proposed DGR has been rigorously scrutinized by environmental and regulatory agencies at various levels of government, has been open to public input and been found to be a responsible and sound plan. Each day Canadians working in the nuclear industry safely ship thousands of packages of radioactive material – many of them across the world. Radioactive shipments include medical isotopes, some smoke detectors, gauges and instruments, nuclear reactor fuel, uranium, and cobalt for sterilizing food and medical supplies. No member of the Canadian public has ever been harmed by a radiation release in transportation.

The Canadian nuclear industry provides a broad spectrum of products and services that benefit Canadians, including low-carbon electricity, medical isotopes, and food safety technologies. Our industry supports the employment of tens of thousands of Canadians and we are committed to ensuring safety throughout all aspects of our industry and being responsible environmental stewards across Canada and in the communities where we live and work.

For more information about the regulation of Canada’s geological repositories, visit the CNSC’s website: http://www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/about/regulated/radioactivewaste/regulating-canadas-geological-repositories-fact-sheet.cfm

Nuclear Energy Waste Management

Turning Waste Repositories into Nuclear Energy Hubs

There are some interesting points in this article about siting a nuclear used-fuel/waste facility, which states:

  • Acceptance of nuclear is high in communities with operating facilities – the communities understand and accept the risks and benefits. So, building a used-fuel/waste repository in a willing host community near existing nuclear facilities (and their expertise) makes sense.
  • There is also a strong argument to be made for co-locating nuclear facilities and building a “nuclear hub.” Savings in packaging and treatment for shipping would be significant.
  • Geology is also a key consideration for siting a deep geological repository (DGR) as a suitable rock formation is important for ensuring the long-term safety of stored materials.

Turning waste repositories into nuclear energy hubs

Nuclear Casks

By Jason Deign on Jul 17, 2012

The search for final repository sites tends to focus on putting waste as far out of sight as possible. But there are sound arguments for turning a repository into a nuclear centrepiece.

Dr Charles Forsberg probably knows as much about nuclear power life cycle costs as anyone. And the executive director for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a pretty clear message when it comes to final waste repositories.

“We have a strong recommendation that if you build a repository you should seriously consider co-locating lots of other facilities at the repository site,” he says.

“The problem right now in a repository is that because of the history of the cold war, what we did is we built all these fuel cycle facilities after everything was totally built. Then we said: ‘let’s go find a single-purpose repository to dump the trash.’

“We very efficiently separated all the benefits from the liabilities.”

This has led, in the US at least, to a policy-driven quest to find repository sites that are far from anywhere, and particularly far from other nuclear facilities.

Read the entire article in Nuclear Energy Insider. Click here.

Nuclear News Nuclear Outreach Nuclear Pride Nuclear R&D Waste Management

Express your Interest in AECL

On February 9, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources launched a process inviting Expressions of Interest in the activities of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s (AECL’s) Nuclear Laboratories.  This process will allow the Government to benefit from the experiences of organizations, domestic or international, involved in the management or restructuring of nuclear science and technology or radioactive waste management.

The government indicated that information gathered through this process will help inform the AECL restructuring process.  The deadline for submissions is April 2.

This is obviously an important opportunity for our member organizations to present their views to the Government on this key issue.

This is your opportunity to have a say in the future of our nuclear science and technology industry. As a member of Canada’s nuclear community, you have valuable experience and knowledge to share towards informing the process that will determine the future of the labs. If you do nothing more than express your confidence in the future of Canada’s nuclear science and technology industry, you will have played an important part in this process.

You can write to the Honourable Minister Joe Oliver at:

Honourable Joe Oliver, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Natural Resources
162 Confederation Building
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6
Email: joe.oliver@parl.gc.ca

We at TalkNUclear are always interested in hearing your views on this and other issues of collective interest to our industry. Will you make a submission?

CNA Responds Messages Nuclear Energy Waste Management

CNA Responds to “Benefits of Nuclear Power Oversold”

Last week this Letter to the Editor appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix. We thought we’d take a minute to respond with our own letter. Please take a read:

We have important decisions before us as a country. As provinces look to phase out their reliance on coal-fired plants in favour of cleaner, lower emitting sources, we have an opportunity to invest in new generation capacity to shoulder the needs of today and tomorrow.

Effective energy policy is not about choosing some energy sources and excluding others. Energy policy is about choosing an appropriate balance. And nuclear is an essential element in that equation.

Unlike other sources of energy, the price of nuclear is both stable and affordable. According to studies by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, a multi-national organization working to further growth and development, the overall cost to the consumer of nuclear power over the life of a nuclear power plant is on par with that of large-scale hydro, natural gas and coal, and much lower than wind and solar.

Not only is nuclear energy stable in price, but it’s also a stable source of energy itself. Canada’s nuclear power plants were designed to operate continuously to consistently produce a stable amount of electricity. It complements other forms of generation that operate more intermittently. Wind and solar depend on the wind blowing and the sun shining, while more established forms such as hydro and natural gas tend to run during periods of high demand.

Regarding the management of used nuclear fuel and low- and mid-level waste, our commitment to public safety and environmental stewardship includes the safe, secure and responsible long-term management of all of the used fuel produced by Canadian nuclear power plants. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) was established in 2002 to work with industry, research and government organizations to develop a management plan. The implementation of this plan is highly monitored and regulated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to protect the health, safety and security of people and our environment.

Nuclear generating stations produce a constant, stable amount of energy. Canada’s rich supply of uranium, most of which is mined in Saskatchewan, provides security with respect to the availability and long-term price certainty of nuclear fuel. And generation does not contribute to atmospheric carbon emissions.

In fact, if we were to replace the electricity generated by nuclear power plants in Canada today with the same amount of electricity generated by fossil-based sources, it would add about 90 million tonnes of greenhouse emissions annually.

It’s time we took a moment to consider Canada’s energy future. In committing to nuclear, Canada will be committing to a renewable, environmentally sustainable and economically viable means of energy.

For more information on nuclear power, please visit our association’s website www.cna.ca You’re also invited to join the conversation on our TalkNuclear Twitter and Facebook pages, and our TalkNuclear blog.