Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organisation (NWMO) in early January released two planning documents that, it said, “address the wide range of priorities, questions and concerns heard to date from Canadians and Indigenous peoples about the transportation of used nuclear fuel”.
The Transportation Planning Framework and the Preliminary Transportation Plan were designed to advance conversations and provide more information on plans to safely transport used nuclear fuel.
The used fuel will need to be moved from interim storage facilities near reactor sites across Canada to the deep geological repository site. The transportation programme is expected to begin in the 2040s, once the repository is operational.
“While transportation of used nuclear fuel won’t happen for at least 20 years, we know it’s a subject of broad public interest and we want to hear from Canadians and Indigenous peoples about what they want to see in a safe and socially acceptable transportation plan,” said Caitlin Burley, the NWMO’s Transportation Engagement Manager.
The Transportation Planning Framework sets out objectives, priorities, and considerations for transporting used nuclear fuel. It was informed by public feedback on an initial draft released in August 2020. Key updates include more discussion of the importance of Indigenous voices in the planning process and an acknowledgement that people have concerns about existing infrastructure gaps and impacts. In addition, the document reflects a need to continue to engage with the public to ensure it remains aligned with their priorities over the 20-year planning process. Incorporating proven methods and best practices, the Preliminary Transportation Plan provides an overview of the technical approaches, regulatory requirements and planning assumptions that NWMO will build on to ensure safe and secure transportation that protects people and the environment.
“In 2015, we started an inclusive dialogue about transportation to hear from a diverse cross-section of individuals, municipalities, First Nation and Métis communities and organisations, and first responders,” said Burley. “To date, we have engaged with thousands of Canadians and Indigenous peoples to understand their perspectives, suggestions, questions and concerns related to the transportation of used nuclear fuel. And, like everything else we do, we are interweaving western science and Indigenous Knowledge into our transportation planning approaches.”
In Canada, the transportation of used nuclear fuel is jointly regulated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Transport Canada. Stringent regulatory requirements based on international standards must be met before used nuclear fuel can be transported. NWMO said transportation plans will continue to evolve and become more detailed over the next 20 years of planning. “We will continue to work with communities and experts as we develop site specific transportation plans, while ensuring safety and security considerations have been addressed.” Every three years, the NWMO will review and revise the Transportation Planning Framework, which will consider updates based on factors such as evolving best practice, new technologies, and ongoing adaptation and continuous improvement.