Nuclear Power Demonstration Closure Project

The 20 MW Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) reactor was Canada’s first nuclear power reactor to supply electricity to Ontario Hydro’s electrical distribution grid. NPD began operations in 1962 and for 25 years served as an important training facility for future reactor engineers and operators. In 1988, following permanent shutdown of the reactor, removal of the fuel and power generating equipment from the site, Ontario Hydro transferred the responsibility of monitoring and licencing of NPD to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL).

While AECL still owns the NPD site, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is responsible for the facility, which is presently in the Storage with Surveillance phase of decommissioning under a Decommissioning Waste Facility License issued by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

The NPD site is located on the south bank of the Ottawa River near the town of Rolphton Ontario, roughly 3 km downstream from the Des Joachims Generating Station and approximately 25 km upstream from the Chalk River Laboratories (CRL).

The NPD site currently consists of a limited number of structures, including the main reactor building, a diesel generator, a guardhouse and a ventilation stack. Several temporary structures are being added to support the decommissioning project.

Proposed decommissioning technique - The proposed in-situ decommissioning activities include removing the above ground structure and placing contaminated materials into the below grade structure. The below grade structure, reactor vessel and systems and components will be sealed by grouting. The structure will then be capped with concrete and covered with an engineered barrier. In-situ decommissioning will isolate the contaminated systems and components inside the below grade structure.

Project Timeline

CNL will be planning for and executing the decommissioning of NPD over a four-year period. Starting in 2016, as part of a thorough Environmental Assessment process, CNL will be preparing an environmental impact statement for submission to the CNSC for consideration. In conjunction with the required environmental assessment process, CNL will also be requesting a licensing amendment from the CNSC to perform the decommissioning activities by submission of detailed decommissioning plans. 

Once the EA process is complete the execution of the NPD decommissioning of the site will commence and take approximately two years. In 2020, after site restoration activities have been completed, the site will enter a period of long-term surveillance and a monitoring program for a period of time established through a safety analysis process.

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Status of NPD’s decommissioning

At the time of NPD shutdown in 1987, deferred decommissioning was the preferred strategy for management of the main reactor building and the ancillary buildings that remain today. The deferment period has allowed a significant reduction of radiation fields within the facility and the associated systems.  This reduction has helped to reduce the risks to staff preparing to complete the closure project.

Due to the decreased radiation fields at NPD it is now in an ideal position for completion of the required decommissioning activities and the closure of the site. The closure project will safely reduce Canada’s nuclear liabilities at this property.

Proposed end state

The main reactor building and remaining ancillary buildings will be decommissioned and the materials will be managed appropriately.  

The preferred approach for addressing the below-grade structures, including the reactor and associated reactor systems, will be to cement them in place or “grout them”. Referred to as in-situ decommissioning, grouting results in the creation of a concrete monolith. The grouted surface area will then be covered with an engineered barrier to prevent access of surface water to the structure. This monolith will provide robust and durable containment to allow for continued radioactive decay and minimizes hazards to workers and the environment that would be presented through alternative approaches involving cutting, removal and transportation of reactor systems.

Long-term care, maintenance activities and decommissioning site environmental monitoring will continue to ensure that the site remains safe and the decommissioning approach performs to expectation.

Caring for species at risk

"Species at risk means an extirpated, endangered or threatened species or a species of special concern." Species at Risk Act, CS 2002

Identified by location surveys, the presence of eight species at risk have been confirmed on the overall NPD site. The species at risk that have been reported at NPD include: Bald Eagle, Chimney Swift, Common Nighthawk, Eastern Wood Pewee, Eastern Milk snake, and three types of bat; the Eastern Small‐footed Myotis, Little Brown Myotis and the Northern Myotis. Project activities will consider potential impacts on species at risk habitat and propose measures to mitigate adverse environmental effects.

What is an environmental assessment?

The NPD closure project is subject to a federal assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is the responsible authority for the NPD project Environmental Assessment (EA).

In simple terms an EA is a process, planning and decision making tool used to predict environmental effects of proposed initiatives before they are carried out.

An environmental assessment:

  • identifies potential adverse environmental effects;
  • proposes measures to mitigate adverse environmental effects;
  • predicts whether there will be significant adverse environmental effects, after mitigation measures are implemented; and
  • includes a follow-up program to verify the accuracy of the environmental assessment and the effectiveness of the mitigation measures.

The objectives of an environmental assessment are to:

  • minimize or avoid adverse environmental effects before they occur; and
  • incorporate environmental factors into decision making.

For more information, please visit the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website or the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission website.

Life cycle of a nuclear plant

There are five phases in the lifecycle of a nuclear power plant and at each stage there is a separate licence required, which is issued by the CNSC:

  • a licence to prepare or design a site;
  • a licence to construct;
  • a licence to operate;
  • a licence to decommission; and
  • a licence to abandon.

Concurrently with the Environmental Assessment process for NPD, CNL is going through the requirements to obtain a licence to decommission NPD.

Stay informed

Near Surface Disposal Facility

In regards to all our decommissioning activities at NPD, CNL will discuss the project with stakeholders through open houses, information bulletins, site tours, newsletters, and via our CNL website and the dedicated site page for the NPD project. We welcome your questions. Please stay tuned for more information on our public information activities.

Meanwhile, for more immediate information on NPD or to stay informed on public activities related to the project contact us at or 1- 800-364-6989.

Performance Reporting