Nuclear research and test establishment facilities

There are two main nuclear research facilities in Canada: Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) — Chalk River Laboratories (CRL), located in Chalk River, Ontario is operational, and AECL — Whiteshell Laboratories (WL), located in Pinawa, Manitoba is undergoing decommissioning. AECL is responsible for the long-term management of RAW generated by CRL, WL and the three partially decommissioned prototype reactors (i. e., Douglas Point, Gentilly-1 and Nuclear Power Demonstration, NPD), as well as for the low — and intermediate-level waste it accepts from off-site waste genera­tors on a fee-for-service basis. AECL is also responsible for managing its used fuel, including research reactor fuel and any used CANDU® fuel sent to its laboratories for examination, until the NWMO is ready to accept the waste for management in facilities constructed under the APM approach.

In 2006, the Government of Canada adopted a new long-term (70-year) strategy to deal with the nuclear legacy liabilities that have resulted from over 60 years of nuclear research and development carried out on its behalf at AECL sites. The overall objective of the long-term strategy is to safely and cost-effectively reduce the liabilities and associated risks based on sound waste management and environmental principles in the best interests of Canadians. The Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program (NLLP) was estab­lished in 2006 and is being implemented through a Memorandum of Under­standing between Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and AECL (NLLP, www. nuclearlegacyprogram. ca; Miller et al., 2008; Metcalfe et al., 2009). AECL’s ongoing LLW and ILW will be dealt with in waste management facilities that will be built under the NLLP.

At other nuclear research sites, RAW materials are segregated by licen­sees into short-lived and long-lived RAW. Short-lived RAW is stored on-site to allow for decay until it can be disposed of in a conventional manner. Long-lived RAW is kept on-site temporarily until a certain amount or volume is accumulated; thereafter it may be sent off site using a commercial service provider, as available, or transported to AECL-CRL for safe storage, also under a fee-for-service basis.

As of March 2011, there are seven operating research reactors in Canada (see Fig. 19.1). In the past, research reactors have typically used highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel, obtained from the United States for the fuel cores. Within the last decade, some of the cores have been converted to low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel as part of the Global Thread Reduction Initiative (see Section 1.4.3). The used fuel from the research reactors is either sent to AECL-CRL for storage or, in the case of HEU, returned to the United States for processing.

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