NPD Closure Project Updates

NPD timeline - Feb 2021

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) update

The NPD Closure Project has submitted an revised draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for regulatory review. In the past two years, the project team has done further technical work to address the Federal and Provincial comments on the draft EIS. This revised EIS also incorporates feedback from Indigenous Peoples, the public and other project stakeholders.

The NPD Closure Project is reaching out to Indigenous communities, members of the public and other organizations that shared comments on the draft EIS, to dialogue on how the project incorporated their comments into the EIS.

An updated revised draft EIS is anticipated to be submitted to the CNSC in 2021.

For an overview of the issues that the NPD Closure Project incorporated into the revised EIS, see below.

Based on the public comments received, eight main themes have been identified:

1. Alternative Means & Approaches

In selecting disposal for the NPD reactor, CNL has considered several alternatives, including continued storage with surveillance, partial dismantling and removal, and full dismantling and removal of the reactor and components. Through its various engagements, CNL was asked to provide more detail in the EIS on how it chose the in-situ decommissioning / disposal method for the NPD Closure Project. CNL will add quantitative assessments of the options considered to the EIS, and also include an additional scenario where a new disposal facility becomes available during the institutional control period. Overall, the in-situ disposal method is still considered the safest and preferred option.

2. Grout and Concrete Degradation

The NPD reactor structure will be filled with custom grout formulations to help contain and isolate contaminants, ensure stability, and to reduce corrosion of the reactor components. CNL has developed specially-formulated grout based on the unique requirements of the NPD facility, and conducted extensive research on the use of grout in similar circumstances. It has also conducted a test program using locally-sourced materials to verify that the grout formulae requirements can be met. The test included fresh and cured properties, such as the ability of the grout to flow around piping and tanks, as required. Combined with the existing robust structure of the underground facility, the proposed grouting process will enhance protection of people and the environment. CNL will ensure that the final version of the EIS will reflect the necessary details on grout and grout formulations.

3. Impacts from Earthquakes

CNL has conducted additional detailed quantitative analysis to assess how a catastrophic earthquake – one that might occur once every ten thousand years – would affect the facility. Results show that cracks would develop mainly in the areas of the NPD facility which are above the bedrock level. The grouted reactor vault would not be affected as it is well below this depth, with the grout providing increased protection against the stresses of the earthquake. Modelling updates show that any impacts to the public or environment from such an earthquake would be well below the regulatory limits. CNL is also conducting additional geological site characterization work to strengthen our understanding of the geology around the NPD site.

4.  Proximity to the Ottawa River

Ensuring the continued protection of the Ottawa River is a key focus CNL’s work and is reflected in the EIS. CNL has undertaken additional detailed modeling of potential releases from the facility to assess how they could affect the river. This new analysis supports the conclusion of the EIS that the Ottawa River will continue to be protected. CNL will also issue an updated Post Closure Safety Assessment, which evaluates the potential long-term effects of the project on the public and environment. This update will include the final grout design, results from the geological site characterization and the new, more detailed earthquake assessment. Finally, the project team has developed draft follow-up monitoring plans, which are available for review by interested parties.

5.  IAEA Guidance for In-situ Decommissioning

CNL received questions about the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) safety standard for decommissioning which states that in-situ decommissioning is not a suitable option for all nuclear facilities and should be considered only under certain conditions. CNL agrees with this assessment and considers that NPD has features which make it suitable for long-term disposal such as its location 80 feet below grade into bedrock and the thick concrete basement structure.

CNL is following IAEA safety standards for the decommissioning of the facility and more importantly is also following the IAEA safety standards for waste disposal, since the facility – in its end state – would be classified as a disposal site.

It is important to note that CNL is also following Canadian standards and regulatory guidance for decommissioning the NPD facility and Canadian regulations for the creation of a disposal facility.

6.  Radiologic Inventory

CNL received several requests for information on the exact radiological content of the NPD facility that will be on-site for disposal. CNL will update the Environmental Impact Statement to include recently completed neutron flux modeling using modern 3-dimensional codes and libraries, to ensure that the inventory of the reactor has been appropriately accounted for. CNL has also completed a full building characterization, including all nuclear systems to verify the total radiological inventory. Since the reactor contains most of the remaining radiological inventory (the fuel was removed in 1988), the completion of this additional analysis will allow CNL to compare field sampling measurements to models to provide confidence in the radiological inventory.

7.  Design and Engineering Details

At the time of the submission of the draft Environmental Impact Statement, CNL had completed a preliminary design of the disposal facility. Now that CNL has a more detailed design of the disposal facility, including the engineered barrier and the grout, an update will be incorporated into the final version of the Environmental Impact Statement.

8.  Indigenous Engagement

CNL is committed to meaningful engagement with local Indigenous communities and is working to establish long term agreements with them. These interactions are on-going and allow CNL to learn how the Project could impact the rights and interests of Indigenous groups and to identify actions to be taken.

At the same time, Canada’s nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, is also undertaking consultation activities with Indigenous groups.