Policies and strategies for managing non-fuel radioactive waste

Petition: 411

Issue(s): Compliance and enforcement, human / environmental health, other, toxic substances, waste management

Petitioner(s): Canadian organization

Petitioner Location(s): Ottawa, Ontario

Date Received: 21 September 2017

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: This petition raises concerns about Canada’s policies and strategies for managing and disposing non-fuel radioactive waste generated during the operation of nuclear reactors—such as “post-fission” waste, including irradiated reactor parts, building walls, and cooling liquids. The petition suggests that Canada is not meeting its international obligations to manage radioactive waste safely in accordance with the international Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, to which Canada is a party. The petition notes that Natural Resources Canada’s 1996 Radioactive Waste Policy Framework does not comply with International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines. The petition also raises concern that the Nuclear Safety and Control Act does not refer to radioactive waste management.

The petition seeks responses and explanations from Natural Resources Canada on current non-fuel radioactive waste policies and strategies, including the following information: (1) a clarification of current government policy; (2) a classification system for radioactive waste consistent with International Atomic Energy Agency guidance; (3) the direction given to licensees on appropriate facilities for various classes of radioactive waste; (4) the measures in place to ensure radioactive waste will remain isolated from the environment for the duration of its radioactive hazard; (5) the regulations for radioactive waste management; and (6) the degree to which the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s stated policy of considering the extent to which applicants adhere to risk management principles actually mitigates the risks of radioactive waste on health, safety, and the environment.

The petition also seeks responses from Health Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Natural Resources Canada on the development of new non-fuel radioactive waste policies and strategies in accordance with international best practices and International Atomic Energy Agency guidance.

The petition suggests that the Government of Canada develop policies and strategies for managing non-fuel radioactive waste that reflect international best practices and that have been developed in consultation with Indigenous peoples and the Canadian public. The petition calls on the Canadian government to develop a national classification scheme for radioactive waste that is publicly acceptable and consistent with International Atomic Energy Agency guidance.

Federal Departments Responsible for Reply: Environment and Climate Change Canada, Health Canada, Natural Resources Canada