Implementing Adaptive Phased Management 2024-28

In March 2023, the NWMO published Implementing Adaptive Phased Management 2023-27, updating the previous five-year version of this annually updated plan. By also distributing a survey about the implementation plan digitally, we have sought to make it easy for the public to review and comment on Canada’s plan for used nuclear fuel, supporting our commitment to transparency. We heard from hundreds of Canadians and Indigenous peoples, largely from northwestern and southern Ontario, including within the two remaining siting areas.

The survey offers a snapshot of respondents’ thinking and provides insight into confidence in our ability to implement Canada’s plan, as well as identifying areas of opportunity for the NWMO. The survey was designed to solicit broad feedback from interested individuals, and it was disseminated at informational events, through social media and other digital channels. As the survey was open to all interested parties rather than focusing on a representative sample, the results should not be viewed as statistically reliable. Instead, these results should be interpreted as qualitative and indicative of broader trends.

Overall participation numbers in 2023 were slightly lower than in 2022. However, the total number of completed surveys increased (rather than partial survey completions). We received 632 total responses with a 37 per cent completion rate (compared to 19 per cent in 2022). Most (73 per cent) of the respondents were based in Ontario, with 15 per cent from the northwestern area and 18 per cent from the southern area.

The survey about our implementation plan is only one way that we gather input that informs our work. The NWMO also solicits feedback through activities such as on-the-ground and digital engagement efforts, community liaison committees, educational events, advisory groups, publishing in peer-reviewed journals, attending conferences, and meeting with a range of subject-matter experts and all levels of government representatives.

This type of public input informs and guides our work, and comments received have helped us update this plan year after year. This is a summary of what we heard in the implementation plan survey.

Confidence in the NWMO

Respondents to the survey expressed noticeably higher confidence in the NWMO than in previous years. Overall, more than three in five respondents (62 per cent) reported feeling confident in the NWMO after reading the implementation plan, an increase over 2022.

Confidence in southern Ontario is higher than in northwestern Ontario, although perceptions in the northwest are greatly improving.

To build on this confidence, we will continue to expand our ongoing communications efforts, including targeted outreach within the two remaining potential siting regions. This builds on work completed in 2023. In South Bruce, we designed and executed the South Bruce Doorstep Discussion Initiative — our first-ever door-to-door campaign to enhance our outreach efforts within the municipality. Over the course of the summer, we visited close to 1,000 residents, successfully increasing the NWMO’s visibility, building on existing relationships and beginning many new ones. 

In the northwest, our team held 11 “Get to know the NWMO” sessions at several community venues, purposefully expanding our engagement efforts outside our own Learn More Centre. Many of these events featured third-party speakers, offering opportunities for community members to hear from experts outside the NWMO about the project and its potential benefits.

Communication within the implementation plan has been well-received, with close to three-quarters describing it as “excellent” or “good.” Respondents commonly describe the implementation plan as understandable, clear and transparent.

Indigenous Knowledge and Reconciliation

As in years past, the majority of respondents told us they share Indigenous Knowledge and Reconciliation as a priority, and they want us to communicate more about the steps in our Reconciliation journey. Among respondents, 58 per cent reported feeling confident in the NWMO’s ability to align with Indigenous Knowledge and our commitment to Reconciliation. At the same time, we continue to hear concerns about these topics.

In response, the NWMO will continue to share information about the role of Indigenous Knowledge in our work, engage with Indigenous communities and work towards building trust and meaningful partnerships. We remain committed to our ongoing Reconciliation journey, working with Indigenous peoples, learning from Indigenous Knowledge and applying these learnings to our work to successfully implement the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel. We also conduct mandatory staff Reconciliation training and continuous learning opportunities, informal training opportunities, staff support systems and community-driven work plans.


Safety remains a top priority for the NWMO — and it was ranked as the most important priority for survey respondents.

Understanding of safety increased since last year. In total, 83 per cent of respondents reported understanding the safety approach.

Most comments from respondents were linked to general opposition and safety concerns — such as expressing the view that the project is inherently unsafe — and that “the NWMO is unable to guarantee safety.” Respondents also shared environmental and transportation concerns.

The NWMO engages directly with residents to address questions and concerns, and uses communications campaigns to share information on safety-related topics.

The NWMO is committed to ensuring the project is safe from a conventional, social, cultural and environmental perspective.

In 2024, we plan to revise our Confidence in safety reports to reflect additional technical analyses completed after they were first released in 2022. The reports provide a summary of evidence that a deep geological repository can be constructed at either potential site. They reflect years of research and fieldwork, and provide detailed results that show why the NWMO is confident that both siting areas are suitable for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel.

After a site with informed and willing hosts is selected, further technical studies will be undertaken at the selected site. These will provide even greater clarity for the repository design and formal safety case that will be submitted to regulators.


Transportation remains an important priority for the NWMO, and survey responses indicate public understanding of this priority has increased slightly since last year. In northwestern Ontario, 71 per cent of respondents reported understanding the transportation approach, while in southern Ontario, 86 per cent of respondents reported understanding it. Positive sentiment about transportation also increased over 2022.

However, there is still a persistent concern that transportation of used nuclear fuel could be dangerous. Respondents expressed concern about the safety of transportation, particularly due to traffic accidents and road conditions, especially on highways. Transportation continues to be a concern expressed, especially by respondents in the north.

The NWMO is continuing to engage with the public on transportation, hear concerns and answer questions related to safety. In 2023, we conducted a number of studies to build on the Preliminary transportation plan and the transportation planning framework, released in 2021. These include confidence in Used Fuel Transportation Package performance and transportation mitigation.

Looking forward, the NWMO’s transportation approach will continue to undergo review and public reporting. Every three years, the transportation planning framework will be reviewed and revised as necessary, taking into consideration factors such as evolving best practices, new technologies, ongoing adaptation and continuous improvement.



This year’s survey showed most respondents understand and feel positive about the NWMO’s engineering program, ranking it as one of the best understood priorities. Specifically, 83 per cent of respondents said they understand this priority, and 76 per cent expressed a positive or neutral sentiment about it.

Respondents noted the robustness of the plan as a positive, while also expressing interest for greater research, to address safety concerns.

The NWMO has continued to collaborate closely with academics, government and international organizations as we advance the repository design. In 2023, for example, we concluded pressure testing of the Used Fuel Container, a key engineered barrier in the repository design, building on the success of a full-scale demonstration completed in 2022.

Canada’s use of a deep geological repository is consistent with international best practice. This approach is the culmination of decades of research, development and demonstration of technologies and techniques. There is also consensus among major nuclear regulatory and monitoring organizations that deep geological repositories are the responsible way forward.