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Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO)

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Overview

Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO)

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is responsible for implementing Canada's plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel – including that created using new or emerging technologies. Fulfilling this mandate on behalf of Canada will ensure there’s a path to safe disposal not only for existing used fuel, but for potential SMR fuel waste, which in turn supports the role SMRs can play in Canada’s efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. We now employ approximately 190 people – some of Canada's leading experts in fields related to nuclear waste management – who are making great progress in implementing this plan.

The NWMO was established as a not-for-profit organization in 2002 in accordance with the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA)to manage all of Canada’s nuclear fuel waste. The legislation required nuclear energy corporations to establish a waste management organization as a separate legal entity to manage the full range of long-term used fuel management activities.

The NWMO is implementing a plan that emerged through a three-year dialogue with Canadians (2002 to 2005), including Indigenous peoples. Details of those conversations were outlined in Choosing a Way Forward – The Future Management of Canada’s Used Nuclear Fuel (Final Study), issued in November 2005. The NWMO’s plan is Canada’s plan. It reflects the values and priorities citizens identified as important.

Under the NFWA, the Government of Canada is responsible for reviewing the study prepared by the NWMO, selecting a long-term management option from those proposed and ensuring oversight during its implementation.

In June 2007, the Government of Canada selected Adaptive Phased Management (APM) as Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel and other potential fuel waste. It was anticipated from the outset that new fuel types could emerge.

The plan involves developing a deep geological repository in a suitable rock formation to safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel, an approach that aligns with international best practice. It also involves a process of phased and adaptive decision-making, supported by public engagement and continuous learning.

Canada’s plan will be implemented over many decades, and a fundamental tenet is incorporating new knowledge. The NWMO will adapt plans in response to advances in technical learning and international best practices, ongoing public input, Indigenous Knowledge, changes in public policy and evolving societal expectations and values.

When the NWMO initiated the site selection process in 2010, 22 municipalities and Indigenous communities expressed interest in learning more and exploring their potential to host the project. As of January 2020, the NWMO has gradually narrowed its focus to two areas: Ignace and South Bruce; both, in Ontario.

The NWMO site selection process is community-driven, and underpinned by safety, fairness, collaboration, and shared decision-making. Fundamental to the process is the understanding that the APM Project will only proceed with the involvement of the interested community, First Nation and Métis communities in the area, and surrounding communities, working together to implement it.

Dialogue with communities and a range of interested individuals and organizations is central to the work the NWMO does to advance Canada’s plan. As the siting process advances, the NWMO has broadened and deepened engagement activities with municipal, First Nation and Métis communities, as well as surrounding communities in each area. The NWMO has also maintained relationships with national and provincial Indigenous organizations, as well as municipal associations.

The NWMO remains on track to identify a single, preferred site by 2023, with operations expected to begin in the early 2040s. Once the site is selected, the NWMO will move forward together with host communities to implement partnership agreements, develop the Centre of Expertise, finalize the safety case, and prepare for the regulatory processes it must complete before construction and operations can begin.

More information about Canada’s Plan.

ACTIONS

DEMONSTRATION AND DEPLOYMENT
Early engagement with SMR vendors on technical specifications and costs
STATUS: IN PROGRESS
NW01

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 30

ACTION

In response to recommendation #30, the NWMO continues to actively encourage SMR proponents to engage with it early in their program development. The NWMO also remains available to SMR proponents to provide background information on Canada’s plan.

Some SMR vendors have engaged with the NWMO in preliminary discussions. Given the proprietary nature of the information that needs to be shared, this is done through the use of non-disclosure agreements.

In many cases, there is still limited information available from proponents on potential fuel wastes. The NWMO provides the type of information to proponents that would be important to support an assessment of the fuel waste from a long-term disposal perspective.

Under its current mandate through the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act, and associated funding agreement, the NWMO does not have a budget to undertake studies or assessments specific to any proponent or technology, however, it can enter into commercial arrangements to conduct such studies on a cost recoverable basis.

EXPECTED RESULTS

  • The technical specifications for a safe disposal facility for used fuel to accommodate used fuel types from SMRs that could be deployed in Canada.
  • SMR vendors are clear on the requirements for any conditioning of waste for acceptance at the used fuel waste facility.
  • Costs and funding requirements associated with fuel waste management are minimized through early engagement.
CAPACITY, ENGAGEMENT, AND PUBLIC CONFIDENCE
Public and community engagement in used fuel from SMRs
STATUS: IN PROGRESS
NW02

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 31

ACTION

In response to recommendation #31, the NWMO continues its public, community and Indigenous engagement program as it relates to Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel – including used fuel form SMRs.

With the advancement of work on SMRs in Canada, the NWMO has prepared and distributed communications materials in print, through social media, conferences and presentations in potential siting areas to elaborate on and respond to questions about our anticipated role with respect to any resulting fuel waste. This outreach continues.

This is a project that will be implemented over generations -- dialogue, collaboration and shared decision-making help ensure Canada’s plan continues to respond to the values and concerns of Canadians and Indigenous people.

The NWMO strives to be transparent and accountable to Canadians and work in close cooperation with all levels of government, national and international regulators, Indigenous peoples, industry, academia, and civil society organizations.

The NWMO strives to understand, honour, and interweave Indigenous world views into all aspect of its work and also receive ongoing guidance and advice from the Council of Elders and Youth, an independent advisory body made up of First Nation and Métis Elders and youth.

The NWMO incorporates established practices into its daily activities including marking important corporate occasions and milestones through Indigenous ceremony, adhering to its Indigenous Knowledge Policy, and implementing its commitment to interweave Indigenous Knowledge into all aspects of its work.

The NWMO’s Indigenous Engagement team builds sustainable and respectful relationships with First Nation and Métis communities in and near potential siting areas, while maintaining ongoing engagement with national, provincial and treaty Indigenous organizations. These engagements include more than 23 separate groups and communities across Ontario and New Brunswick.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Stakeholders continue to have full information and active engagement in Canada’s approach to used fuel disposal.

CAPACITY, ENGAGEMENT, AND PUBLIC CONFIDENCE
Promoting diversity in the future SMR workforce
STATUS: IN PROGRESS
NW03

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 39

ACTION

As an employment equity employer, the NWMO actively seeks Indigenous peoples, visible minorities, women, youth, people with disabilities, and additional diverse identities for our workforce.

The NWMO is a proud signatory of the Equal by 30 campaign, a global effort to reach gender parity in the Energy sector by 2030. This initiative includes 13 governments and over 130 participating organizations worldwide.

The NWMO is also building a STEMinist campaign, advocating for more diversity among young people entering STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers and for encouraging the next generation of leaders.

Canada’s plan is a multi-generational project that will be developed and implemented over a period spanning 150 years. The economic impact will include many direct, indirect and induced jobs, involving scientists, engineers, tradespeople, and others.

The NWMO has committed to seek out local and Indigenous suppliers wherever possible, as an important way to help build local and regional communities.

EXPECTED RESULTS

NWMO’s workforce is diverse and equitably recognizes contributions from Indigenous peoples, visible minorities, women, youth, people with disabilities, and additional diverse identities.