Pinawa, MB, March 28, 2018 – Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology organization, announced today that it has requested an amended timeline for the environmental assessment process of its proposed WR-1 in situ decommissioning project. CNL is currently working with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to establish a revised schedule for final regulatory submittals, including the submission date for the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
CNL has received 26 submissions from members of the public and regulatory bodies on the draft EIS. Presently CNL is responding to those submissions, and subject to their acceptance by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CNL will update and finalize the Environmental Impact Statement.
The adjustment to the schedule is being made in order to allow CNL to appropriately address these comments and for the CNSC staff to subsequently conduct a fulsome assessment of CNL’s proposal.
“The WR-1 project team have been working hard in advancing through the CNSC’s regulatory review process,” said Dan Coyne, GM Whiteshell Closure Project. “It is important for the project to spend the correct amount of time responding to comments and, where applicable, make changes.”
Fifteen public information sessions have been held over the last year to provide the public with opportunities to learn more about the WR‐1 decommissioning project, share their feedback, ask questions, meet the project team and discuss with subject matter experts.
CNL has been and continues to engage with Indigenous communities to discuss the WR‐1 decommissioning project, taking into account historical or traditional practices.
Members of the public, elected officials, special interest groups and Indigenous communities have come to visit and tour the WR‐1 facility in the last year.
“Listening and engaging with our communities has provided valuable feedback and is making the WR-1 project stronger,” said Coyne. “We encourage members of the public to stay informed through CNL’s website and social media platforms.”
The proposed in situ technique is a waste management solution for the WR‐1 reactor that was safely shutdown in 1985 and subsequently de‐fueled and drained. It uses multiple barriers to contain the radiological and non-radiological waste in the reactor, and provides time for the radioactive materials to decay to safe levels.
If approved, the plan is to remove most of the structures above ground using traditional decommissioning methods, while encasing everything below ground (i.e., the remaining reactor vessel) in concrete grout.
An engineered cover will then be constructed to prevent future intrusion. Ongoing site environmental monitoring will ensure that the site remains safe and that the decommissioning approach performs as expected.
The current decommissioning licence issued by the CNSC for the Whiteshell Laboratories (WL) site expires at the end of 2018, and CNL applied for a 10-year licence renewal, linked to the proposed WR-1 in situ decommissioning. In order to keep the two licensing activities together, CNL has applied for a licence to expire at the end of 2019 under the same conditions as the current licence. The 10-year licence application can then be addressed at the time of the WR-1 environmental assessment.
About the Whiteshell Laboratories Closure Project
Decommissioning of the Whiteshell Laboratories has been underway for more than a decade. In 2003 the site received approval of an overall decommissioning framework, through the completion of an environmental assessment and the subsequent issuing of a site decommissioning licence by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Since that time, redundant buildings have been demolished, and new enabling facilities for waste handling have been planned and constructed.
Environmental performance is continuously monitored and has confirmed CNL’s responsible stewardship of the site. A renewed strategic plan has been developed. The new plan will see decommissioning of the entire site complete by 2024.
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