The Processing and Storage of Nuclear Materials in Saskatchewan By M.

Tyler Gould 10142325

Comm 306 (08) Professor Goodfellow

6 March 2007

THE ISSUE In 1944, shortly after Canada's preliminary involvement with the Manhattan project, the federal government nationalized Eldorado Mining and Refining Ltd. and created the Atomic Energy Control Board (now known as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) and set the path for not only uranium extraction but nuclear energy in Canada (1). The next major step, the formation of the crown corporation Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. (AECL) as a national entity specializing in non-weapon use of nuclear power, took place in 1952, followed 10 years 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 usage and currently utilizes approximately 86 Terra-Watt Hours - roughly equal to %15 of the energy consumed annually (2). Though the development of nuclear power in Canada has been stagnant for the past couple decades - and even recently following the 2003 eastern seaboard blackout caused by the Darlington and Pickering sites - international pressure to reduce green house gases and increased 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 is really 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 been accumulating high-level nuclear waste (primarily spent nuclear fuel rods) with no long-term storage methods or policies. The current policy dictates that high level nuclear waste (which can remain dangerously radioactive for tens of thousands of years) be temporarily stored on site in either dry storage (steel-cement containers) or in wet storage (water pools) until a suitable long-term storage policy can be worked out. The same government policy, the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act, requires the owners of spent nuclear fuel to engage stakeholders regarding a long-term storage solution. Thus the Nuclear Waste Management Organization was created to meet this requirement. The NWMO's 2005 annual report states that current temporary storage methods are not sufficient for long-term storage but will not be abandoned for approximately 30 years, if the federal government takes a plan of action similar to that recommended by the NWMO (4). Whether or not Canada increases its reliance on nuclear energy - as predicted by Torgerson of the AECL - or succumbs to opponent organizations such as Energy Probe, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, or one of the many aboriginal advocate groups and discontinues its development altogether, there still remains nearly 40 years of radioactive nuclear waste that needs to be properly controlled and stored in the long-term.

The 2005 NWMO Final Study created a shortlist of provinces that is recommends for a centralized shallow storage and deep geological repository of nuclear waste (5). The provinces include Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick based on the fact that they utilize nuclear power, and Saskatchewan, based on the amount of uranium extracted from the province. The principal idea in this case being that costs are matched with rewards. The NWMO identifies, along with other sites, northern Saskatchewan's geological properties (Ordovician sedimentary formations and Canadian Shield) as ideal for a long-term storage site. The Final Study listed option 3 with adaptive phased management (meaning the policy is dynamic and stages of management are phased in as need arises) of the report as the best option. The areas of Saskatchewan in the report that were identified as possible locations for a centralized facility under option 3 are: Regina - Moose Mountain, 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 the NWMO and the Government of Canada will have little trouble convincing local communities 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 regulatory body responsible is the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The current Nuclear Fuel Waste Act only outlines considerations that must be made when dealing with the long-term storage of radioactive waste, and does not yet specify guidelines regarding technology, location, expenditure, or risk. Assumedly, following the NWMO's studies and reports, the CNSC will create a policy dictating the specifics regarding the storage of high-level nuclear waste, of which organizations such as Ontario Power Generation, Hydro-Quebec, and NW Power must adhere to. The industry is almost exclusively government controlled, from both 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 upon the 1999 breakup of Ontario Hydro) as is Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd; the main exception to this being the 2000 lease of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station to Bruce Power (a partnership of which Cameco and TransCanada Corp. are majority shareholders). The federal and provincial governments both see this issue as important, though for very different reasons. There are several reasons this issue is of vital importance to the federal government. The storage of nuclear waste is not of vital importance at the moment - the current facilities are adequate in the short term - but the issue is

compounded if nuclear energy is further developed and utilized throughout Canada. Therefore, the reasons nuclear waste storage is important to the federal government are the same reasons nuclear energy is important. The first major reason is international pressure to reduce green house gases and pollution. Nuclear energy creates negligible air pollution in comparison to gas or coal power plants. While Canada may have failed Kyoto, global warming is still a high priority issue in the political arena and nuclear energy is one of the cleanest ways to meet the high and growing energy demand. That stems to the second issue, the growing demand for energy, not only in Ontario but the rest of the country (and across the border). John Efford, minister of natural resources, stated in his address to the Canadian Nuclear Association, "We are on the threshold of a new age for nuclear energy.... We need to increase our capacity - and we have not as yet seen commitment to build new reactors.... Decisions need to be made soon," (7). More reactors translate to more spent nuclear fuel. While new facilities will undoubtedly have sufficient short-term storage, the problem needs to be dealt with sooner than later. Finally, even if the development of nuclear energy in Canada stops today, there is still 40+ years of radioactive waste that needs to be dealt with. This issue exists and will not go away; therefore it is in the best interest of the federal government to deal with it. The government of Saskatchewan views this issue as highly important as well as it should. The essential dumping of nuclear waste in one's province is not to be taken lightly. The main reasons nuclear storage is of importance to the provincial government are twofold. Firstly, a facility as described by the NWMO would be a boost to the economy, creating jobs and increasing provincial GDP. In addition, there are very few such facilities in existence in the world and as such it would be a high-profile demonstration of Canadian ingenuity. On the other hand, Saskatchewan has a highly vocal environmental network and a responsive collective of aboriginal peoples. Without proper interaction - which the NWMO has already started and continues - these communities could create heavy resistance to such a project, economically, socially, and politically. And the environment effects of such a storage site are unknown: there are assumed risks because no such facility has been around for an extended period of time. There are other reasons this issue is on the governments agenda, though none as important as the previous two. Saskatchewan does receive 71% of its power through greenhouse gas producing methods and SaskPower may, in the future, determine that nuclear energy is a viable option (8). If so, a long-term storage facility in the province could prove an advantage. Finally, Saskatchewan does provide the country (and the world) with a very large percentage of its uranium, and having a storage facility in our province sends a positive message for nuclear energy to the entire world; definitely not detrimental to the provincial economy. Canada's nuclear regulatory body, the CNSC, has four major stakeholders active

with the issue of nuclear storage (or indirectly though the issue of nuclear energy development). These stakeholders include the Canadian Nuclear Association (essentially the mouth of AECL and the rest of the industry), the NWMO (representing some members of the industry but particularly those who own radioactive waste), the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (an activist organization that includes Energy Probe), and various environmental and aboriginal organizations ranging from those that support nuclear energy and the safe storage of nuclear waste to those that are straight opposed to nuclear energy. Because the NWMO and the CNA represent the whole industry that is made up almost entirely of government corporations, and because nuclear waste is a problem that must be dealt with - the waste already exists, stopping nuclear development won't change that - the NWMO and the CNA are the most influential organizations with respect to the federal government. No environmentalist or aboriginal organization wants a nuclear storage facility in their community but most realize that it has to be stored somewhere; therefore much of the dialogue between the government and such organizations is similar. The issue is actually separated into two parts that are in to stages of the policy lifecycle. The first part, addressed by the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act, is in the implementation stage and with the NWMO is reaching the evaluation stage. The second part, directly linked to the first, began with the creation of the NWMO, where it flowed through the first two steps and is currently in the policy adoption phase. The next step will be the finalization of the policy and its implementation.

THE STAKEHOLDERS The positions on this issue are relatively cut and dry to most of the market stakeholders. In fact the only problem seems to be with having the facility in one's community. No one on the national level disagrees with the need for such a storage facility. On a more micro level, few communities (if any) are keen on having nuclear waste in their backyard. The major four that own the nuclear waste cannot be keen on the costs of such a facility (10 to 20 billion dollars according to NWMO's report) but a billion or so is already set aside and the full utilization of a storage facility like that described by the NWMO is thirty-plus years off (5). In addition, the corporations are government owned and run and in most cases receive huge subsidies from the federal and provincial governments, easing such a financial burden. The aboriginal and environmental organizations are concerned, rightly so, with the possible effects on the environment of such a proposed storage site 10, 50, 100, 1000 years in the future, and the effect it may have on future generations. Organizations that are not primary to the issue, such as SaskPower and Cameco, can benefit greatly from a nuclear waste storage facility in Saskatchewan, through either easy access for future radioactive waste disposal or a broadening of the nuclear image, respectively. The people of Saskatchewan would obviously welcome the increase in jobs and provincial

revenue, though those in close proximity to the site would have to deal with the problem of having nuclear waste next door. Aside from environment-focused organizations who realistically won't be happy with any storage solution because they don't believe nuclear energy is right in the first place, the only opposition comes on the macro level where communities object to having nuclear waste in close proximity. If significant resistance is given by environmental, aboriginal, or local communities, the undertaking of a long-term nuclear storage project could be delayed for decades, or be forced into a geographical area that is economically "bad" with respect to construction, transport, and operating costs. Either of these possibilities negatively affect the NWMO and its constituents (the four major spent nuclear fuel owners) by burdening them with further economic costs. These costs must then be passed on to either the tax payers by the government having to subsidize the NWMO financial trusts, or by an increase in electricity rates. A good portion of potential resistant communities and organizations would most likely be willing to negotiate their positions given the chance to be part of the planning and implementation process. This is where the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act and the NWMO step in. As stated in the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act, owners of spent nuclear fuel must consider all stakeholders and interactively approach a long-term storage solution. The NWMO, created to do just this, has been actively meeting with groups over the past several years. The mission of the NWMO, from their website (www.nwmo.ca) is defined as follows: "The purpose of NWMO is to develop collaboratively with Canadians a management approach for the long-term care of Canada’s used nuclear fuel that is socially acceptable, technically sound, environmentally responsible and economically feasible." Through interactive dialogues with aboriginal peoples, environmental organizations, local communities in possible storage sites, and various other stakeholders, the NWMO came up with a set of values that it found were important to all of the stakeholders involved, and designed a strategy taking all of them into account. This approach is the epitome of interactive management. By interacting with stakeholders, considering their values and ideas, discussing options and alternatives, and creating ideas collaboratively, the NWMO has been extremely effective in their management of the issue and interaction with both positive, neutral, and negative stakeholders. Because both the market stakeholders (essentially Bruce Power and the federal and provincial governments in the form of crown corporations) and the non-market stakeholders have their sides considered by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, the primary driver to the CNSC is actually the NWMO. The NWMO has successfully converted neutral parties, strengthened its constituents by accenting the essential need for such a storage solution, and weakened the strength of its opponents by having their values partially or fully incorporated into its strategy.

THE FUTURE

There's no telling what the future holds. A long-term storage facility is necessary and further development of nuclear energy, including more reactors country-wide, is highly probable therefore compounding that necessity. The NWMO has come up with a strategy and numerous contingencies that the federal government should adopt. Saskatchewan's extremely low per-square-kilometer population also makes it an ideal place in regards to risk. Our geological formations including the Canadian Shield also put us higher on the list. Whether or not a long-term high-level nuclear waste storage facility is located in Saskatchewan is also highly dependent on the local communities in proposed sites, and the direction the provincial government takes to either prevent such a facility due to environmental and social reasons, or to advocate the project for economic reasons. The left-leaning nature of the NDP causes me to believe they will side with the environment even if there are local communities willing to adopt a storage facility. However, the Saskatchewan Party should win the next election and since they are much more open to the nuclear industry than their left wing counterparts, acceptance of a proposed storage facility is more probable. In addition, the federal government may choose to ignore provincial government input and that of some stakeholders if the economic viability, technological soundness, or (lack of) environmental impact is found to outweigh the other factors.

SOURCES CITED – END NOTES
(1) "Nuclear Power in Canada." Wikipedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_Canada>. Last Modified 8 February 2007 (2) "About Energy." Natural Resources Canada. <http://www.canren.gc.ca/tech_appl/index.asp?CaId=4&PgId=26>. Last Modified 9 May 2006. (3) "Power: The Nuclear Renaissance." Canadian Business. Matthew McLearn. September 2005. (4) "NWMO Annual Report." Nuclear Waste Management Organization. 2005. <http://www.nwmo.ca/adx/asp/adxGetMedia.asp?DocID=1537,550,18,1,Documents&Me diaID=2834&Filename=NWMO_2005_Annual_Report_E.pdf>. (5) "NWMO Final Study." Nuclear Waste Management Organization. 2005. <http://www.nwmo.ca/adx/asp/adxGetMedia.asp?DocID=1487,20,1,Documents&MediaID =2706&Filename=NWMO_Final_Study_Summary_E.pdf>. (6) "Uranium Processing Survey." Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association. <http://www.suma.org/siteengine/activepage.asp?NewsID=6&bhcp=1>. Last Modified: 9 August 2006. (7) "Speech to the Canadian Nuclear Association Annual Seminar." The Honourable John Efford, Minister of Natural Resources. 9 March 2005. <http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/media/speeches/2005/200519_e.htm>. Last Modified: 23 March 2005. (8) "Cross Country Electricity Snapshot." Natural Resources Canada. <http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/media/archives/newsreleases/2003/2003106a_e.htm>. Last Modified: 27 November 2003.