Repatriation Facts

1. It's Safe

CNL in all its activities is committed to the protection and safety of public, the environment, contractors, and employees. Furthermore, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Canada’s independent nuclear regulator, will not issue a licence unless it is satisfied that the entire project will be completed safely, without posing increased risks to the health, safety or security of Canadians or the environment.

HEU is transported in packages (casks) that are specifically designed and certified by both the CNSC and in this circumstance its counterpart, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the U.S. Department of Transportation in accordance with international safety requirements established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

These packages undergo stringent testing, which simulate both normal and abnormal situations of transport, including:

  • A 9-metre drop onto an unyielding surface
  • A 30-minute thermal test at 800°C
  • Immersion in 15 metres of water for one hour without a breach of containment.

2. It's Secure

Stringent security plans for each shipment are required to avoid any risk of material falling into the hands of unauthorized persons or organizations. Specific details on shipments are considered sensitive, and are limited to persons who have a need to know, such as police or emergency response forces. The transportation routes and security measures put in place are pre-approved and agreed to by authorities in both Canada and the United States.

Canada has an excellent safety record for the transport of radioactive material. The CNSC will not allow the shipment of any radioactive material unless it is convinced the safety and security of both Canadians and the environment will be protected.

3. We're prepared

Every organization involved in the transport of radioactive material must:

  • use CNSC approved transport packages
  • must satisfy the relevant Acts and regulations
  • must obtain the correct licences from the regulators
  • have an emergency plan in place
  • maintain a radiation protection program
  • report to the CNSC any incident involving radioactive materials
  • maintain records for two years after the transport takes place.

In the highly unlikely event of an accident, measures are in place to ensure that the public, the environment, contractors, and employees are protected.

Potential accident scenarios will be addressed during the planning phase so that CNL personnel are prepared for, and able to manage, any accident situation.

First responders are trained to recognize the identifying markers on vehicles specific to this transport and act in accordance with the regional emergency response protocols.

CNL has an approved Radioactive Material Transportation program that allows us to ship and meets the requirements of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations and the CNSC Packaging and Transport of Nuclear Substances Regulations. The Program covers the off-site transport of radioactive material activities and practices at CNL. The Program specifies the requirements to fulfill regulatory, company business, environmental, health, safety, and quality assurance responsibilities pertaining to radioactive material transportation.

The main objectives of the Program are to protect persons, property and the environment from the effects of radiation during the transport of radioactive material. This is done by establishing and maintaining requirements, processes and training necessary to facilitate the safe transport of radioactive material to and from CNL sites in accordance with regulatory requirements. In addition, the Program provides oversight to ensure compliance with applicable regulatory and licence requirements.

4. We're experienced

Radioactive material has been transported safely nationally and internationally for over 45 years by road, rail, water and air without a single radiological incident. It is a highly regulated activity that must meet the stringent requirements of both Transport Canada and CNSC before being approved.

Canada has decades of experience in transporting radioactive materials, and has an excellent safety record. Thousands of shipments containing radioactive material are transported safely in Canada each year.

NAC International, the company contracted to move the HEU materials, has more than 40 years of proven experience providing nuclear materials packaging and transportation services for nuclear utilities, commercial companies, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and other government agencies. The company has developed ten major U.S. NRC-licensed (10CFR71 and 72) cask systems and has obtained over 120 U.S. NRC license amendments. In addition, NAC has licensed its cask technology through competent authority validations in more than 35 countries.

Using its licensed casks, NAC has safely completed more than 3,700 cask movements of spent fuel, high-level waste and other nuclear materials. NAC casks have been used at more than 60 nuclear facilities to package a broad array of nuclear materials including spent nuclear fuel and high-level wastes, and have logged more than six million cask miles traveling through more than 35 countries. NAC routinely applies to the NRC to obtain numerous amendments to its transport cask licenses in support of client-specific requirements.

Since 2002, United States Department of Energy has down blended, (processed to convert HEU to a form usable in Pressurized Water Reactors) over 22 metric tons of surplus enriched uranium resulting in enough energy to power every home in the United States for 50 days or every home in South Carolina for nine years.

5. It's permanent

Repatriation and processing at the U.S. DOE facilities will reduce proliferation risks by consolidating HEU inventories in fewer locations around the world. The U.S. DOE has the technology and capability to do this work safely and securely. Options for managing the HEU materials in Canada do not provide a permanent solution. For example, vitrification (encasing in glass) or other solidification approaches would require long-term management and storage of the resulting radioactive product in Canada.

If the liquid bearing HEU material were to remain in Canada, a process would be required to be developed and put in place for production of a suitable radiological material form for long term disposal in Canada, managed by future generations.

6. Oversight is rigorous

The CNSC and the U.S. NRC will separately review different aspects of the project to transport HEU, and will only approve the shipments if both agencies are convinced that health, safety, security and the environment will be protected. Both Canadian and U.S. regulatory requirements are based on strict international standards for the transportation of radioactive materials.

While the transportation of HEU does not require an environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, it does require a transport license from the CNSC. The CNSC regulatory regime ensures that adequate measures are in place to protect the environment and human health, in accordance with the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and its regulations.

7. Taking responsibility

This HEU is the result of nuclear fuel use at Chalk River Laboratories for CNL’s research reactors, the NRX and NRU, and for the production of medical isotopes through the irradiation of HEU targets in the NRU. Generations of Canadians have benefitted from medical isotopes and nuclear technology. Canadians are taking responsibility for the management of the resulting materials to ensure the burden and financial cost is not transferred to future generations.