Casework: Nuclear Waste and Reactor Decommissioning in Manitoba and Saskatchewan

Canada faces an expanding legacy of defunct or soon to be defunct nuclear reactors. The decommissioning of these facilities is regulated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Typically, this process occurs via applications to amend operating licences, transitioning them to allow decommissioning activities. In some cases, these licences have sought approval for in situ containment or “entombment” methods thus turning nuclear technology facilities into nuclear waste storage facilities. 

“Entombment,” where all or part of a facility is encased in structurally long-lived material is not considered a decommissioning strategy according to international guidance. No permanent storage options exist for nuclear waste in Canada.

CELA has intervened in several such hearings, raising concerns about Canada’s lack of a coherent nuclear waste strategy (see also Nuclear Waste Managment in Canada). Gathered below are materials related to client assistance in licensing hearings for reactor decommissioning proposals in Manitoba (the Whiteshell Reactor Complex in Pinawa) and Saskatchewan (the Saskatchewan Research Counsel SLOWPOKE-2 reactor in Saskatoon). 

Additional casework pages address the proposed Deep Geologic Repository for nuclear waste, withdrawn by Ontario Power Generation in June of 2020 and decommissioning proposals for facilities at Chalk River and Douglas Point in Ontario.

Whiteshell Reactor Decommissioning - Pinawa, Manitoba

During 2017-19 CELA intervened in the ongoing decommissioning of the Whiteshell Reactor complex in Pinawa, Manitoba. We raised concerns:

    • about discrepancies in the scope of the decommissioning licence and several deficiencies by the proponent including a lack of a final safety assessment for numerous low level waste trenches; 
    • that contemplated activities may require an impact assessment under the Impact Assessment Act; and 
    • that plans are insufficiently aligned with Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and international decommissioning guidance.

We also noted that granting a ten-year licence reduces public engagement, access to information and is contrary to the precautionary principle.

Decommissioning of Saskatchewan Research Council SLOWPOKE-2 Reactor

CELA assisted Nuclear Waste Watch and the Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational Cooperative in their intervention in a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearing held in 2019. The hearing addressed a request from the Saskatchewan Research Council to amend the operating licence for its SLOWPOKE-2 reactor facility in Saskatoon to authorize decommissioning of the reactor.  Our clients raised multiple concerns about the need for a principled overall policy framework underpinning a robust, clear, and enforceable regulatory regime for nuclear facility decommissioning and management of resulting nuclear waste. The CNSC amended the SRC licence in December of 2019, allowing the decommissioning.