Implementing Adaptive Phased Management 2023-27

Canada has been using nuclear energy as a reliable, low-carbon power source for our homes and businesses for nearly 60 years. Now, as worldwide energy demand grows and the need to address climate change intensifies, nuclear power has become an increasingly important part of the conversation. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) plays a vital role by closing the fuel cycle.

We are entrusted with implementing Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel inside a deep geological repository, in a manner that protects people and the environment for generations to come.

In 2002, the Government of Canada mandated the establishment of the NWMO through the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act. Following the “polluter pays” principle, we are an independent, non-profit organization that is funded by the waste owners in Canada: Ontario Power Generation, New Brunswick Power, Hydro-Québec and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.

Currently, Canada’s used nuclear fuel is stored at licensed, above-ground facilities. While this approach is safe, it is temporary and widely recognized as inappropriate over the long term. Canadians and Indigenous peoples have clearly told us they recognize the importance of taking action on a long-term approach today and not leaving used nuclear fuel as a burden for future generations to manage.

Canada’s plan for used nuclear fuel, which follows an approach known as Adaptive Phased Management (APM), emerged through a three-year dialogue with Canadians and Indigenous peoples, including specialists and the public. It is based on the values and objectives they identified as important. In 2007, the Government of Canada selected APM as the country’s plan for the safe, long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

A significant milestone is now on the horizon as we expect to select the site for the repository in 2024. Getting to site selection will require building on all the work we have done for the past 20 years. With a project of such complexity and generational scope, we must always stay focused on reaching our upcoming milestones, while also keeping an eye on the long view.

Canada’s plan: Adaptive Phased Management (APM)

APM is both a technical method (what we plan to build) and management approach (how we will work with people to get it done). The technical method involves building a deep geological repository in a suitable rock formation to safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel. The management approach involves phased and adaptive decision-making, supported by public engagement and continuous learning.

A safe and secure transportation system will be developed to transport used nuclear fuel to the repository site from the facilities where it is currently stored on an interim basis.

The project also includes plans for a Centre of Expertise, which will be established at or near the site. Initially, it will support multi-year testing and assessment of the site, with a focus on safety and community well-being. Eventually, it will become a hub for knowledge sharing across Canada and internationally.