Implementing Adaptive Phased Management 2023-27

Developing a Canadian Integrated Strategy for Radioactive Waste

In 2020, the NWMO was asked by the Minister of Natural Resources to lead the development of an Integrated Strategy for Radioactive Waste (ISRW) to ensure that all Canada’s radioactive waste has long-term management approaches.

A team from the NWMO led the strategy development, in part to leverage our 20 years of recognized expertise in the engagement of Canadians and Indigenous peoples on plans for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel. The focus of this work is on low- and intermediate-level waste for which there are no long-term plans in place.

All Canada’s radioactive waste is safely managed today in interim storage. An integrated strategy will ensure these materials continue to be managed in accordance with international best practices over the long term. Building on previous work, this strategy represents a next step to identify and address any gaps in radioactive waste management planning, while looking further into the future.

Through the engagement process, we heard from communities across Canada, Indigenous peoples, youth, academics, civil society organizations and technical experts to help inform practical recommendations to the Government of Canada on a more comprehensive radioactive waste management strategy.

Following the engagement process reflecting on the values and interests of the public, a draft strategy was released in summer 2022 for public comment. This strategy has been informed by what we heard from Canadians and Indigenous peoples who participated in surveys or in one of more than 70 engagement sessions since March 2021. Canadians and Indigenous peoples were able to share their perspectives on the draft strategy via the website and email.

These perspectives are currently being reviewed to further inform the final ISRW recommendations. The strategy and recommendations will only be issued after an updated policy release by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), which is expected in the first quarter of 2023, to ensure we are consistent with the updated policy.

If the ISRW recommendations are accepted by NRCan, the NWMO would be responsible for the planning and management of intermediate-level waste. We would then develop a detailed plan on how best to integrate this work into our existing program for the safe, long-term management of intermediate-level waste. We are anticipating that NRCan will make this decision in 2023.