NOW LIVE: Government of Canada’s Modernized Policy for Radioactive Waste and Decommissioning for Canada
March 27, 2023 Ottawa, Ontario Natural Resources Canada
The Government of Canada is committed to the safe, effective and environmentally sound management of radioactive waste. Protecting the health and safety of Canadians and the environment is the government’s top priority when it comes to nuclear energy and radioactive waste. Canada already has a robust framework in place; however, we must keep pace with evolving views and technology development.
That is why the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources, has released the modernized Policy for Radioactive Waste and Decommissioning (the Policy) for Canada, which ensures the safe management of radioactive waste continues to align with international standards and best practices that reflect the values and principles of Canadians.
This final Policy is the result of more than two years of extensive and active engagement with Indigenous Peoples, interested Canadians, experts, waste generators and owners, and other levels of government. In February 2022, the Government of Canada shared the draft Policy for public comment and incorporated feedback in finalizing the modernized Policy.
This modernized Policy significantly elaborates on the original Canada’s Radioactive Waste Policy Framework (1996) and affirms Canada’s continued commitment to reconciliation. It also highlights the importance of recognizing Indigenous rights and knowledge, engaging early and continuously, building capacity and working together in partnership on radioactive waste management and decommissioning projects. The Policy also commits to ensuring alignment with, and supporting, the government's implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Policy also includes measures that support an integrated strategy for Canada’s radioactive waste and the importance of considering future generations when making decisions.
Modernizing the 1996 Radioactive Waste Policy to the new Policy for Radioactive Waste and Decommissioning is critical for the government to continue to meet international best practices, guidelines and standards based on the best available science while continuing to ensure that Canada’s radioactive waste is safely managed, including waste from emerging technologies such as small modular reactors (SMRs).
As Canada combats climate change through the deployment of non-emitting technologies and natural solutions, the Government of Canada is implementing the Policy for Radioactive Waste and Decommissioning, and radioactive waste management practices, in a manner that reflects the values, voices and diverse perspectives across the country, including those of Indigenous Peoples.
Nuclear power is an important energy solution that provides affordable non-emitting energy to communities as Canadians move toward a net-zero electricity system by 2035. Nuclear power creates jobs and economic opportunities across Canada while displacing fossil fuels domestically and globally.
“The modernized Policy for Radioactive Waste and Decommissioning is an important development to ensure the safe, effective and environmentally sound management of waste. This Policy is informed by significant consultations with Indigenous Peoples, experts, communities and other governments. Building a more sustainable and prosperous future includes delivering non-emitting nuclear energy and responsible waste management.”
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Natural Resources
All radioactive waste generated in Canada is safely managed, according to international best practices that are based on the best available science, and there is a comprehensive legislative framework for nuclear energy and technologies, including radioactive waste, that focuses on protecting health, safety, security and the environment.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Canada’s independent regulator, makes science-based, objective decisions, regularly undergoes peer reviews by world-renowned organizations and administers our nuclear safety regime.
99.5 percent of radioactive waste generated in Canada is low- and intermediate-level waste. In October 2022, an independent auditor (CESD) found that Natural Resources Canada, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited are effectively managing low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste.
Radioactive waste in Canada is defined as any material (liquid, gaseous or solid) that contains a radioactive nuclear substance for which no further use is foreseen. In addition to containing nuclear substances, radioactive waste may also contain hazardous substances that are not radioactive.
Radioactive waste management refers to all activities involved in the handling, pre-treatment, treatment, waste minimization and optimization, transport, storage and disposal of radioactive waste.
When this inclusive engagement process launched in November 2020, Natural Resources Canada asked the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), a not-for-profit organization responsible for implementing Canada’s plan for the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste, to lead a dialogue to develop an integrated strategy for Canada’s radioactive waste through close collaboration among waste owners and producers, Indigenous Peoples and other interested Canadians.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples deals with the respect and recognition of the human rights of Indigenous Peoples. On June 21, 2021, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (UN Declaration Act) received Royal Assent and came into force. This Act reaffirms the inherent human rights of Indigenous Peoples and provides a roadmap for the Government of Canada and Indigenous Peoples to work together to implement the Declaration based on lasting reconciliation, healing and cooperative relations.
The Modernized Radioactive Waste and Decommissioning Policy will support broader UN Declaration Act–implementation efforts, led by Justice Canada, to develop an action plan to achieve the Declaration’s objectives. The Policy will be revised at least every 10 years to ensure it aligns with and supports these efforts.
- Public consultations and engagements
- Canada’s radioactive waste
- Nuclear Fuel Waste Act - NRCan website
- Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO)
- Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC)
- Canada Launches Radioactive Waste Policy Engagement
- Office of the Auditor General of Canada: 2022 Reports 6 to 10 of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the Parliament of Canada
Natural Resources Canada
Office of the Minister of Natural Resources
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