Long-term management of AECL’s low and intermediate-level radioactive waste

As described in Section 19.2.2, the Government of Canada is implementing a long-term strategy, the NLLP, to deal with the nuclear legacy liabilities at AECL sites. The program addresses environmental restoration, infrastruc­ture decommissioning, waste management, and care and maintenance of the nuclear liabilities until they are addressed.

An important element of the program is the development of an inte­grated waste plan to ensure the selection of the optimal mix of enabling facilities and their implementation schedules to address the current and future wastes arising from the program ’ s activities. An interim integrated waste plan for CRL has been developed, and will be expanded to the other sites and go through multiple iterations of refinement as additional planning and waste characterization data are obtained.

As input to the refinements of the integrated waste plan, a number of studies are under way to better define the waste processing, treatment and long-term management facilities required to deal with the wide variety of legacy waste types at AECL sites. This will help to define, for example, the volume reduction and waste immobilization technologies to be used, the extent to which buried waste can be managed in place over the long term, and the available options for the long-term management of the waste that needs to be recovered.

Significant savings in long-term waste management costs at CRL could be achieved by constructing a very low level waste (VLLW) facility to receive large volumes of VLLW wastes such as soil, concrete, vegetation, asphalt and/or building materials/rubble that are being generated by NLLP infrastructure decommissioning and environmental remediation projects and activities. All pre-project activities have been completed to support the development of a VLLW facility, and formal project development activities are being initiated.

In 2006, an investigation was initiated to assess the feasibility of the bedrock at the CRL site to host a proposed geological waste management facility (GWMF) as a final enabling facility for the long-term management of low — and intermediate-level solid radioactive waste at the site.

The feasibility study involved exploring the geoscience and engineering characteristics of the proposed bedrock and the drilling and testing of char­acterization boreholes. The collected information and interpretations were then used to construct three-dimensional deterministic computer models of the geology of the site and the associated groundwater flow regime. The results of the feasibility study are currently under review by various parties to assist in the decision-making process for proceeding.

AECL has initiated discussions with the NWMO on the long-term man­agement of AECL’s varied inventory of legacy research reactor fuel waste within the NWMO APM approach.

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