WR-1 Closure Project Updates

WR1-timeline-March2020

Environmental Impact Statement update - 2020 April 6

The WR-1 Closure Project has now submitted the next revision of the 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 work to address the comments on the draft EIS. This revised EIS incorporates feedback from Indigenous Peoples, the public and federal and provincial regulators.  
 
Over the next few months the WR-1 Closure Project will be 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.
 
A final revision of the EIS is anticipated to be submitted to the CNSC in late 2020. 
 
For an overview of the issues that the WR-1 Closure Project incorporated into the revised EIS, see below.


CNL is in the process of responding to 233 Federal, Provincial, Public and Indigenous Group Information Requests.

Based on the 233 comments received, eight main themes have been identified:

1. Impact on the Winnipeg River

The continued protection of the Winnipeg River is a key focus of the Environmental Impact Statement. Understandably, the proximity of the Winnipeg River to the WR-1 reactor facility prompted many questions about how the final project would affect the waterway. 

In response, the project team has developed draft monitoring plans, written in accordance with Canadian standards, to explain how the groundwater, surface water and effluent will be monitored over all phases of the WR-1 Closure project, including the decommissioning execution phase and the institutional control period. Although it is not expected that there will be negative effects on the Winnipeg River or its sediment and aquatic organisms, the monitoring plans are comprehensive and identify triggers to initiate responses which could involve mitigation measures and remedial actions. 

2. Grout and Concrete

Since CNL has identified in-situ disposal as the preferred option for decommissioning the WR-1 facility, the use of grout to encapsulate the building below-grade has prompted many questions. CNL has developed specially-formulated grout based on the unique requirements of the WR-1 facility. The WR-1 reactor structure will be filled with a custom grout formulation to help contain and isolate contaminants, ensure stability, and to reduce corrosion of the reactor components. Testing is complete using the locally-sourced materials that will be used in the actual decommissioning. The tests include both fresh and cured properties of the material.
 
CNL has prepared a report which synthesizes the latest research studies into how concrete and grout degrade over time in order to ensure a thorough understanding of how the material will interact with the WR-1 facility components and the local environment. This knowledge has been incorporated into the performance modelling of the facility and is included in the updated Environmental Impact Statement.

3. Radiological Inventory

CNL received several requests for details on the current radiological content of the WR-1 facility and how the levels of radioactivity will reduce over time. It should be noted that the reactor fuel – the most radioactive part of the facility – was removed in 1985. In response to questions, CNL has conducted further characterization of the facility and has included the results in the updated Environmental Impact Statement. For a detailed breakdown of the inventory, consult the Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) which lists the dose rate and time of peak dose rate for every nuclide in the model used for the project.

4. Assessing the Impact of Possible Earthquakes

In the original Environmental Impact Statement, CNL included the results of thorough modelling and studies of the potential impacts of environmental hazards on the project. But some commentators requested more detail to better understand how the final structure would withstand an earthquake. In response, CNL has undertaken a revision of the seismic hazard assessment to include more historical data on the WR-1 building, and the historical codes under which the structure was seismically qualified. With these additional details, the new assessment continues to indicate that even in the event of an extreme earthquake, the potential risk from the facility to both the public and the environment would be well below the threshold set out by regulatory and health guidelines. This information has been included in the updated Environmental Impact Statement.

5. Alternative Means/Options

CNL was asked to provide further detail on how it chose the in-situ decommissioning method for the WR-1 Project. In accordance with guidance from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the original Environment Impact Statement included qualitative assessments of the options considered. In response to requests, CNL revised the assessment of alternatives for clarity, and to incorporate feedback from the public and from Indigenous groups.
 
In selecting disposal for the WR-1 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. The updated assessment clarifies the differences between the alternatives and explains the risks relative to each alternative. This clarification will show that in-situ decommissioning is a good overall option and is, in fact, low risk to the public and the environment when compared to the limits established by Canada’s nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

6. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Guidance for In-situ Decommissioning

CNL received questions about the IAEA’s 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 CNL does consider that WR-1 and the designed disposal facility  has features which make it suitable for long-term disposal such as: its location below grade, that it doesn’t contain significant quantities of long-lived isotopes, and that it can be monitored post-closure during the institutional control period.
 
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 WR-1 facility and Canadian regulations for the creation of a disposal facility.

7. Design and Engineering Details

Many questions touched on the design of the WR-1 project. When CNL submitted the draft Environmental Impact Statement, it had completed a preliminary conceptual design. Since then, the design process has continued to progress, and a more detailed design has been prepared and will be submitted to the CNSC for review along with the updated Environmental Impact Statement. The final detail design will equal or surpass the performance of the conceptual design that was assessed in the Environmental Impact Statement.

8. Indigenous Engagement

CNL recognized that engagement with local Indigenous communities had been lacking in the past. CNL is committed to engage in a meaningful way and has put significant effort into building these relationships and nurturing the opportunity to learn from one another. These meetings are on-going and allow CNL to learn how the Project may impact the rights and interests of Indigenous groups and to identify actions that could be taken to mitigate negative impacts if identified.

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

Upcoming

The following breakfast sessions will be rescheduled once we are able to:

  • An overview of the post-closure safety assessment of the WR-1 Disposal Facility
  • Defence in Depth – An overview of the WR-1 Disposal Facility containment and isolation barriers
  • Development and test results of the WR-1 Disposal Facility grout