Canada's Plan for Used Nuclear Fuel

Adaptive Phased Management (APM) is the name of Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel and emerged from a three-year discussion with Canadians and is consistent with best practices adopted by other countries with nuclear power programs, such as Finland, France, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The used fuel, also known as high level waste, is very radioactive, and must be isolated from all life forms for many thousands of years.

The federal government selected APM as Canada’s plan in June 2007. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is now responsible for implementing APM. The NWMO is a partnership of the electricity generating companies and other organizations who have produced the waste fuel.

The end point of APM is the containment and isolation of Canada's used nuclear fuel in a deep geological repository (DGR) in an area with suitable geology and an informed and willing host community. APM also involves the development of a transportation system to move the used nuclear fuel from the facilities where it is currently stored to the new site.

If the waste fuel were to be permanently stored in Huron-Kinloss, it would be placed in chambers excavated in a limestone formation about 500 metres deep. It would cover an underground area of about two by three kilometres.  The final layout of the repository will depend on a number of factors, including characteristics of the chosen site, final design of the barrier system, final safety considerations, and inventory of used fuel to be managed.

The amount of waste fuel will depend on how long the current fleet of reactors operates, and whether new ones are built. Current estimates are that the facility proposed for Huron-Kinloss will store 80,000 to 100,000 tonnes of high level waste.

Used fuel transportation, handling and placement operations in the DGR will take more than 40 years, depending on the amount of used nuclear fuel to be managed. After that, the repository will be monitored for an extended period of time before decommissioning, closure and postclosure monitoring.

Canada's Plan also includes a Centre of Expertise that will support the multi-year testing and assessment of the site with a focus on safety and community well-being. The centre will be home to research and an engineering test facility. It will become a hub for knowledge-sharing across Canada and internationally.


Elyse Dewar

Project Coordinator