Cost and funding
Canadians and Indigenous peoples expect that the money necessary to pay for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel will be available when needed. This expectation is being met.
Consistent with the “polluter pays” principle, Canada’s plan for used nuclear fuel is funded by the waste owners in Canada: Ontario Power Generation (OPG), New Brunswick Power (NBP), Hydro-Québec (HQ) and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL). The Nuclear Fuel Waste Act requires each of these four companies to establish independently managed trust funds and make annual deposits to ensure the money to fund this project will be available when needed.
Each company pays into the trust fund based on the number of fuel bundles it has and continues to create. The amounts cover estimated fixed costs for the NWMO to construct, operate, monitor and decommission a deep geological repository, as well as variable costs associated with managing each fuel bundle. This process is designed to ensure Canada’s plan is funded over the long term.
For more information on trust fund deposits, please refer to the NWMO Triennial Report 2020-22. In addition to these trust fund contributions, waste owners are also responsible for funding the NWMO’s annual operating budget.
Total trust fund deposits: Year 2023
* Annual trust fund deposits are required to be made within 30 days of the submission of the annual report. A deposit date of April 27 is assumed for illustrative purposes.
Many factors will affect the long-term cost of Canada’s plan: the volume of used nuclear fuel to be managed, the location of the facility, the surrounding infrastructure, rock type and characteristics, the design of the repository, and the length of time allocated to monitoring the site following fuel placement. The existing inventory of used nuclear fuel in Canada is approximately 3.2 million bundles, and more bundles are produced each year as nuclear reactors continue to generate electricity. Future decisions about nuclear generation in Canada may change the volume and type of fuel to be managed.
The NWMO regularly updates the lifecycle cost estimate and completed a full update of the cost estimate for the project in 2021. These estimates provide the basis for financial planning and trust fund deposits for future years. For planning purposes, our 2021 cost estimate is based on an expected volume of about 5.5 million fuel bundles, which is the anticipated volume at the end of the planned operation of Canada’s existing nuclear reactors. With this expected volume, the total lifecycle cost of the project – from the launch of the site selection process in 2010 to the completion of the project about 175 years later – is approximately $26 billion (in 2020 dollars). This figure covers many decades of lifecycle activity, stretching well into the next century.