Radioactive Waste

Overview

Radioactive wastes have been produced in Canada since the early 1930s when the first radium mine in Canada began operating at Port Radium in the Northwest Territories. Radium was refined for medical use and uranium was later processed at Port Hope, Ontario. Research and development on the application of nuclear energy to produce electricity began in the 1940s at the Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL).

At present, radioactive waste is generated in Canada from: uranium mining, milling, refining and conversion; nuclear fuel fabrication; nuclear reactor operations; nuclear research; and radioisotope manufacture and use.

In accordance with Canada’s Radioactive Waste Policy Framework, the owners of radioactive waste are responsible for the funding, organization, management, and operation of disposal and other facilities required for their waste. The policy recognizes that arrangements may be different for each of the waste categories.

In November, 2002, the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA) entered into force. This act requires that: nuclear energy corporations, for example, Ontario Power Generation, Hydro-Québec and New Brunswick Power, establish and maintain a Waste Management Organization (WMO); that this organization return to government in three years with a recommended approach to the long term management of Canada’s nuclear fuel waste; and that once the government of Canada takes a decision on the approach, the WMO will then be responsible for its implementation.

Radioactive waste is currently managed in a safe and environmentally responsible manner by storing the waste under the requirements of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Canada’s independent nuclear regulator.