Government releases report of panel studying the disposal of nuclear fuel waste

Press release
March 13, 1998

Ottawa – March 13, 1998 – The federal panel studying the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste and the safety and acceptability of Atomic Energy of Canada’s concept to bury nuclear waste deep within the rock of the Canadian Shield has recommended a step-by-step approach to managing nuclear wastes. Accordingly, the eight-member panel is recommending that the search for a specific site not proceed at the present time. The panel’s report was made public today by Minister of Natural Resources, Ralph Goodale and Minister of the Environment, Christine Stewart.

“The panel has undertaken an exhaustive review and consultation on a very complex issue. Its report will permit the government to come to an informed and balanced response,” said Environment Minister Christine Stewart.

The panel, over its eight-year mandate, carefully examined the criteria by which the safety and acceptability of any concept for long-term waste management and disposal should be developed. It reached two conclusions:

• Broad public support is necessary in Canada to ensure the acceptability of a concept for managing nuclear fuel wastes; and

• Safety is a key part, but only one part, of acceptability. Safety must be viewed from two complementary perspectives: social and technical.

Applying these criteria to Atomic Energy of Canada’s disposal concept, the panel arrived at the following conclusions:

• While the safety of the AECL concept has been adequately demonstrated from a technical perspective, from a social perspective it has not.

• The AECL concept in its current form for deep geologic disposal does not have broad public support, and does not have the required level of acceptability to be adopted as Canada’s approach for managing nuclear fuel wastes.

The panel has also recommended the creation of a nuclear fuel waste management agency to assume responsibility for managing and co-ordinating the full range of activities required to deal with nuclear fuel wastes in the long term.

“This panel report raises key issues which the government will give consideration to in its response. This will set the stage for the next steps regarding the long-term disposal of nuclear fuel waste in Canada,” said Minister of Natural Resources Ralph Goodale.

The panel was appointed in October 1989 under the Environmental Assessment and Review Process Guidelines Order and is the last panel to report under that Cabinet directive. The panel, chaired by Mr. Blair Seaborn conducted its review in five provinces: Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. Public hearings were held in 16 communities, including three Aboriginal communities, over three phases from March 1996 to March 1997. Phase I focussed on broad societal issues; Phase II on technical issues; and Phase III on the safety and acceptability of the disposal concept. Overall, the panel heard 531 registered speakers and received 536 written submissions.

– 30 –

For more information:

Guy Riverin Panel Manager Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Tel: (819) 997-2244 E-mail: guy.riverin@ceaa.gc.ca

The complete report is posted on the CEAA Internet site, at http://www.ceaa.gc.ca

Ottawa – March 13, 1998 – The federal panel studying the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste and the safety and acceptability of Atomic Energy of Canada’s concept to bury nuclear waste deep within the rock of the Canadian Shield has recommended a step-by-step approach to managing nuclear wastes. Accordingly, the eight-member panel is recommending that the search for a specific site not proceed at the present time. The panel’s report was made public today by Minister of Natural Resources, Ralph Goodale and Minister of the Environment, Christine Stewart.

“The panel has undertaken an exhaustive review and consultation on a very complex issue. Its report will permit the government to come to an informed and balanced response,” said Environment Minister Christine Stewart.

The panel, over its eight-year mandate, carefully examined the criteria by which the safety and acceptability of any concept for long-term waste management and disposal should be developed. It reached two conclusions:

• Broad public support is necessary in Canada to ensure the acceptability of a concept for managing nuclear fuel wastes; and

• Safety is a key part, but only one part, of acceptability. Safety must be viewed from two complementary perspectives: social and technical.

Applying these criteria to Atomic Energy of Canada’s disposal concept, the panel arrived at the following conclusions:

• While the safety of the AECL concept has been adequately demonstrated from a technical perspective, from a social perspective it has not.

• The AECL concept in its current form for deep geologic disposal does not have broad public support, and does not have the required level of acceptability to be adopted as Canada’s approach for managing nuclear fuel wastes.

The panel has also recommended the creation of a nuclear fuel waste management agency to assume responsibility for managing and co-ordinating the full range of activities required to deal with nuclear fuel wastes in the long term.

“This panel report raises key issues which the government will give consideration to in its response. This will set the stage for the next steps regarding the long-term disposal of nuclear fuel waste in Canada,” said Minister of Natural Resources Ralph Goodale.

The panel was appointed in October 1989 under the Environmental Assessment and Review Process Guidelines Order and is the last panel to report under that Cabinet directive. The panel, chaired by Mr. Blair Seaborn conducted its review in five provinces: Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. Public hearings were held in 16 communities, including three Aboriginal communities, over three phases from March 1996 to March 1997. Phase I focussed on broad societal issues; Phase II on technical issues; and Phase III on the safety and acceptability of the disposal concept. Overall, the panel heard 531 registered speakers and received 536 written submissions.

For more information:

Guy Riverin Panel Manager Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Tel: (819) 997-2244 E-mail: guy.riverin@ceaa.gc.ca

The complete report is posted on the CEAA Internet site, at http://www.ceaa.gc.ca

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