Nuclear Power Demonstration Closure Project

The responsible solution to decommission the first Canadian nuclear power reactor.


Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is proposing to safely decommission the Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) facility to complete the closure of the site. 

The Government of Canada and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) are committed to the responsible management of Canada’s nuclear legacy liabilities. Through the NPD Closure Project, CNL aims to protect people and the environment, while helping the government to achieve this commitment. 

Currently, the project is going through a federal Environmental Assessment.

Current Status of the Environmental Assessment Process

The public comment period on the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed NPD Closure Project closed on February 13, 2018. Comments from members of the public, Indigenous groups and non-governmental organizations on the draft EIS as well as a consolidated table of federal and provincial comments have been received by CNL.  The CNSC has identified a number of areas where additional information is required for the final EIS and other technical supporting documentation.

CNL is currently addressing all comments received, as well as complying with CNSC staff request for additional information.  Addressing all the comments accurately is taking longer than expected.  An updated timeline can be found here.

CNL appreciates all feedback received to date on the project and remains committed to continuing  discussions with the public , Indigenous groups and non-governmental organizations on the NPD Closure Project.  CNL will continue engagements throughout the environmental assessment process but please should you have questions about the project.

Learn more about the NPD Closure Project:

Watch the webinar

Read the full draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

Read the Interactive Environmental Impact Statement Summary

We have prepared a summary of the draft EIS to provide the public with a broad overview of the information that can be found in the full draft EIS. In order to provide more context we have made the document interactive. All text in dark blue has a definition that will pop up if you roll your mouse over the text and when you roll mouse over the dark blue question marks in the document, extra information will appear.

Printable Environmental Impact Statement Summary

The interactive version is meant to be viewed on a screen, it will not print. If you wish to print the EIS Summary, please download the above version.

Read the project description

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What is NPD?

What is NPD

The Nuclear Power Demonstration, better known as NPD, was the first Canadian nuclear power reactor and the prototype for the CANDU® reactor design.  NPD made history in 1962 when it generated electricity from nuclear power for the first time in Canada.  It was a single 20 MWe pressurized heavy water reactor located in Rolphton, Ontario.  The NPD reactor was the prototype and proving ground for research and development that led to commercial application of the CANDU® system for generating electric power from a nuclear plant using natural uranium fuel, heavy water moderator and coolant in a pressure tube configuration with on-power refuelling.

For 25 years NPD produced sustainable, clean energy and operated as a training centre for nuclear operators and engineers from Canada and around the world. Operations at NPD ended in 1987, after which the first stages of decommissioning were completed, including the removal of all nuclear fuel from the site and the draining of the systems.  The site has been in a safe shutdown state for the last 30 years.

What is an Environmental Assessment (EA)?

Consideration for the environment is part of every project undertaken by CNL.  Through the NPD Closure Project, CNL seeks to complete the decommissioning of the NPD facility.  The NPD Closure Project is subject to a federal environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.  The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is the responsible authority for the NPD Closure Project’s EA.

As part of the project planning phase, the EA process thoroughly assesses and predicts environmental effects of proposed decommissioning activities.  The EA:

  • provides opportunity for input by the public, Indigenous groups and stakeholders throughout the process
  • describes the project and the existing baseline environment conditions
  • identifies potential adverse environmental effects of the proposed project, including accident and malfunction scenarios, long-term performance and effects of the environment on the project (e.g. flood, earthquake),
  • 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:

  • minimization or avoidance of adverse environmental effects before they occur;
  • incorporation of environmental factors into decision making.

For more information on the EA for the NPD Closure Project, please visit the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

What is the NPD Closure Project?

What is the NPD_Closure_Project

The purpose of the NPD Closure Project is to safely carry out the decommissioning of the NPD facility.

In-situ decommissioning, hereafter referred to as in-situ disposal, is the preferred approach proposed by the project to carry out these activities. Based on sound scientific and engineering principles, this decommissioning technique entombs the reactor systems and facility structure in place with specially formulated grouts. The structure will then be capped with a reinforced concrete cap and covered with an engineered barrier.

The decommissioned facility would be considered to be a licensed disposal facility under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, intended to responsibly manage the inventory (radionuclides and other waste material) at the site.

Why in-situ disposal?

NPD has a unique configuration for a nuclear power reactor: its reactor and associated systems are tens of metres below-grade, deep in the bedrock.  This means in-situ decommissioning has significantly lower safety risks for workers and the public compared to a technique that would involve the full dismantling and removal of the below-grade reactor systems and facility structure.  

The proposed end state ensures the lowest potential risk to the environment in comparison to other alternatives (such as, interim storage of the waste above-ground). This is because with in-situ disposal, the reactor systems and facility structure are safely encapsulated – or contained – below-grade, which limits long-term risks in the case of both normal and extreme weather events, like severe flooding. 

Why complete decommissioning of the NPD facility now?

The NPD facility is no longer in use and has been in a safe shutdown state for the last 30 years.  Previous NPD decommissioning strategies delayed closure of the NPD site until future disposal facilities had become available. The proposed method  ensures CNL focuses their environmental efforts on limiting nuclear legacy obligations for future generations.

What exactly will remain at the NPD site?

All of the existing inventory at the NPD facility, and debris generated as a result of the decommissioning activities, will remain within the decommissioned facility. This includes all radiological inventory such as the reactor systems and facility structure.  All debris from the demolition of the above-grade structures will be re-used as fill for below-grade voids. This plan for managing waste also includes containment – through encapsulation – of the remaining industrial waste materials, such as, asbestos, lead paint and shielding materials.

Only wastes related to the NPD facility decommissioning will remain at the site

How does this technique protect people and the environment?

In-situ disposal provides containment and isolation of the NPD inventory for a sufficient length of time to ensure that any potential environmental contaminants would not cause adverse effects to the public or the environment. 

How can we be sure that the radioactive inventory at NPD will remain contained? 

There are a few different ways that the inventory at NPD will remain contained. First, we know that the majority of the radioactivity within the facility is embedded in reactor system metals which take a very long time to corrode, therefore, we know the radioactivity will remain within these metals. Second, the thick concrete walls of the reactor vault and the underground facility structure provide barriers that slow the movement of contaminants. Third, the grout will create an alkaline environment which limits the solubility of many contaminants.

Why are we confident that in-situ disposal will effectively isolate the reactor systems and facility structure? 

The decision to situate NPD in bedrock during its original design and construction in the 1950’s aids with the isolation of the inventory. By filling much of the facility with grout, CNL is further strengthening the natural isolation provided by the bedrock and ensuring protection from environmental processes such as climate change. 

Isolation and containment help safeguard the inventory at NPD against environmental processes, but in the unlikely event future societies were to try to build a house or farm on the decommissioned facility, the reinforced concrete cap will protect against unintentional intrusion. Additional institutional controls, such as a fence and land use restrictions, will control access to the site as well.

Why are we confident in the safety of this technique?

It is a proven technique. 

In-situ disposal has been used successfully at a number of nuclear sites worldwide since the 1960’s. It is a technique that was used to effectively remediate sites contaminated with toxic and hazardous wastes. In-situ disposal of NPD will meet the requirements of all current legislation and will do so by reaching or exceeding the requirements of all Canadian safety standards.

Internationally, the nuclear industry has successfully used in-situ disposal to safely decommission power and research reactors such as, Hallam in Nebraska, Savannah River Site P and R, the Experimental Breeder Reactor (EBR) II, Boiling Nuclear Superheater (BONUS) Reactor Facility and Piqua. Two of these examples were decommissioned in the 1960’s and the 60 year performance of these facilities demonstrates the strength of this approach at protecting humans and the environment. 

Furthermore, the radioactive inventory that the NPD Closure Project proposes to dispose of at the NPD site is much lower in comparison to the radioactive inventory disposed of at other entombed facilities.  

In the long-term, there are natural analogues to give insight into how materials behave over the course of thousands of years. 

Natural analogues, which are natural or anthropogenic (man-made) features, are used to better understand how safety features can last over thousands of years, which increases the confidence in the how the disposed facility will behave. Natural features similar to NPD’s containment and isolation safety features provide supporting evidence, for instance:

  • Knowledge of how archaeological artefacts (e.g., iron nails from the first century) corrode under a wide range of environmental conditions, supports our understanding of how NPD’s reactor system will survive over long periods of time. 
  • Early cements, such as those used by the ancient Romans, have proven to be extremely durable, even in harsh environments, and have lasted thousands of years. This gives a solid understanding of the longevity of NPD’s concrete structure and grout backfill. 
  • Anthropogenic or man-made barrier systems, such as ancient tombs, support the appropriateness of using a cover structure to keep below-grade systems dry for a long period of time.

What will it look like afterwards?


This image is a depiction of the proposed condition of the disposed facility. Currently, the NPD site is around 1,000 acres, however, the disposed facility will only take up a small “footprint”, which will be less than one per cent of the original site. 

When decommissioning work is complete the entire “footprint” will be covered with an engineered barrier designed to shed water and deter human intrusion. This “footprint” area will be fenced and monitored by CNL. The ventilation stack will remain in place, as it is habitat to a protected species, the Chimney Swift, and leaving it in place ensures the best chance for the population’s survival. Learn more about CNL’s efforts to conserve the Chimney Swifts.

CNL will be putting institutional controls in place for a period of at least 100 years to confirm that the decommissioned facility is behaving as intended. Institutional controls include active measures like, restricting access through security protocols , site maintenance and environmental performance monitoring, as well as passive measures, like restricting land use (through coordination with government) and signage.

Who is CNL talking with about this?

Since October 2015, CNL has met regularly with local stakeholders, including the Environmental Stewardship Council, to share information, generate dialogue and provide opportunities for feedback on the NPD Closure Project. 

CNL is reaching out to the community to share information on the NPD Closure Project and to solicit feedback about the proposed project. Information on the NPD Closure Project is being made available in a variety of formats including on CNL’s website.

CNL is also engaging with First Nations and Métis communities to discuss the NPD Closure Project and to discuss any potential adverse effects – taking into account asserted rights, historical or traditional practices and land claims.

Administrative Protocol between CNL and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

The Administrative Protocol between CNL and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) outlines the administrative framework, milestones and established timelines for the EA and licensing activities related to the NPD Closure Project, including CNL’s submission of the technical information in support of the application for approval to decommission the NPD facility and the CNSC review of this application. 

This protocol aims to provide efficient project management for the regulatory review of information submitted by CNL in support of the NPD Closure Project. 

Download the document and Appendix A

Near Surface Disposal Facility

How can I learn more?

To get reliable information directly from the source, contact us:


Telephone: 1-800-364-6989

Stay Informed

We will continue to discuss the NPD Closure Project with stakeholders through public information sessions, information bulletins, site tours, newsletters and via our CNL website.