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Uranium Storage in Saskatchewan

Uranium Storage in Saskatchewan

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Published by Tyler Gould
An Essay examining the stakeholder impact of Uranium Storage (and a touch on processing) in Saskatchewan, Canada. Deals with locals, provincial government, federal government, corporations (such as Cameco), the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, and other various Stakeholders.
An Essay examining the stakeholder impact of Uranium Storage (and a touch on processing) in Saskatchewan, Canada. Deals with locals, provincial government, federal government, corporations (such as Cameco), the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, and other various Stakeholders.

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Published by: Tyler Gould on May 30, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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The Processing and Storage of Nuclear Materials in SaskatchewanBy M. Tyler Gould10142325Comm 306 (08)Professor Goodfellow6 March 2007
 
THE ISSUE
In 1944, shortly after Canada's preliminary involvement with theManhattan project, the federal government nationalized Eldorado Mining andRefining Ltd. and created the Atomic Energy Control Board (now known as theCanadian Nuclear Safety Commission) and set the path for not only uraniumextraction but nuclear energy in Canada (1). The next major step, the formationof the crown corporation Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. (AECL) as a national entityspecializing in non-weapon use of nuclear power, took place in 1952, followed 10years later by Canada's first CANDU nuclear reactor operated by Ontario Hydro(now all nuclear reactors in Ontario are operated by Ontario Power generation).Since this first reactor opened, Canada has expanded its nuclear energy usageand currently utilizes approximately 86 Terra-Watt Hours - roughly equal to %15of the energy consumed annually (2). Though the development of nuclear power in Canada has been stagnant for the past couple decades - and even recentlyfollowing the 2003 eastern seaboard blackout caused by the Darlington andPickering sites - international pressure to reduce green house gases andincreased energy demands have brought nuclear energy back to the forefront.David Torgerson, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of AECL,said of nuclear energy in Canada, "[governments] have realized that there isreally no other option for large-scale energy production that can meet their requirements," (3).Over the past half century or so, the nuclear energy industry in Canada has beenaccumulating high-level nuclear waste (primarily spent nuclear fuel rods) with nolong-term storage methods or policies. The current policy dictates that high levelnuclear waste (which can remain dangerously radioactive for tens of thousandsof years) be temporarily stored on site in either dry storage (steel-cementcontainers) or in wet storage (water pools) until a suitable long-term storagepolicy can be worked out. The same government policy, the Nuclear Fuel WasteAct, requires the owners of spent nuclear fuel to engage stakeholders regardinga long-term storage solution. Thus the Nuclear Waste Management Organizationwas created to meet this requirement. The NWMO's 2005 annual report statesthat current temporary storage methods are not sufficient for long-term storagebut will not be abandoned for approximately 30 years, if the federal governmenttakes a plan of action similar to that recommended by the NWMO (4). Whether or not Canada increases its reliance on nuclear energy - as predicted byTorgerson of the AECL - or succumbs to opponent organizations such as EnergyProbe, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, or one of the manyaboriginal advocate groups and discontinues its development altogether, therestill remains nearly 40 years of radioactive nuclear waste that needs to beproperly controlled and stored in the long-term.
 
The 2005 NWMO Final Study created a shortlist of provinces that is recommendsfor a centralized shallow storage and deep geological repository of nuclear waste(5). The provinces include Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick based on thefact that they utilize nuclear power, and Saskatchewan, based on the amount of uranium extracted from the province. The principal idea in this case being thatcosts are matched with rewards. The NWMO identifies, along with other sites,northern Saskatchewan's geological properties (Ordovician sedimentaryformations and Canadian Shield) as ideal for a long-term storage site. The FinalStudy listed option 3 with adaptive phased management (meaning the policy isdynamic and stages of management are phased in as need arises) of the reportas the best option. The areas of Saskatchewan in the report that were identifiedas possible locations for a centralized facility under option 3 are: Regina - MooseMountain, Swift Current - Moose Jaw, Saskatoon - Biggar, Yorkton - Melville,Prince Albert, and "Northern." While these locations may be technically viable,social attitudes on the subject are mixed. If the reception is similar to that of proposed uranium processing/refining plants in Saskatchewan (of which 95% of respondents were highly in favour of such a project in their community) then theNWMO and the Government of Canada will have little trouble convincing localcommunities to adopt the new facility (6).
THE GOVERNMENT
The federal government retains jurisdiction over all aspects of the nuclear industry in Canada, including the disposal of radioactive waste. The regulatorybody responsible is the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The currentNuclear Fuel Waste Act only outlines considerations that must be made whendealing with the long-term storage of radioactive waste, and does not yet specifyguidelines regarding technology, location, expenditure, or risk. Assumedly,following the NWMO's studies and reports, the CNSC will create a policydictating the specifics regarding the storage of high-level nuclear waste, of whichorganizations such as Ontario Power Generation, Hydro-Quebec, and NW Power must adhere to. The industry is almost exclusively government controlled, fromboth sides. The three main owners of spent nuclear fuel are crown corporations(though OPG was originally planned to be spun off as a commercial entity uponthe 1999 breakup of Ontario Hydro) as is Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd; the mainexception to this being the 2000 lease of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station toBruce Power (a partnership of which Cameco and TransCanada Corp. aremajority shareholders). The federal and provincial governments both see thisissue as important, though for very different reasons.There are several reasons this issue is of vital importance to the federalgovernment. The storage of nuclear waste is not of vital importance at themoment - the current facilities are adequate in the short term - but the issue is

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