Language selection

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

Panel Report

6.0 Future Steps

As a result of this review the panel will make recommendations to assist the governments of Canada and Ontario in reaching decisions ... on the steps that must be taken to ensure the safe long-term management of nuclear fuel wastes in Canada... . the Panel will take into consideration the degree to which we should relieve future generations of the burden of looking after the waste... .

Preparation of the panel's final report addressing:

... b) the future steps to be taken in the management of nuclear fuel wastes in Canada ...

Terms of Reference

In addition to the technical challenges involved, the long-term management of nuclear fuel wastes in Canada is likely to encounter formidable social and political obstacles if governments and the nuclear industry do not plan carefully. In the previous chapter, we concluded that the AECL disposal concept has not been demonstrated to have the level of acceptability required to be selected as Canada's approach for managing nuclear fuel wastes. To build public acceptability, as defined by the criteria given in Chapter 4, proponents and governments must follow a number of steps. A site should be sought only after the public has broadly accepted a particular concept for managing nuclear fuel wastes.

Our recommended plan for building and determining acceptability is divided into four phases:

  • Phase I: Set-up (about one year): measures to be initiated immediately;
  • Phase II: Concept Acceptance (about two years): measures to determine which concept for managing nuclear fuel wastes is most acceptable;
  • Phase III: Project Acceptance: measures to determine whether a site-specific project based on the selected concept is acceptable; and
  • Phase IV: Implementation: measures to implement the project, if the project is accepted.

The overall plan, phases and component measures are illustrated in Figure 6 and described in the following sections. Some measures are processes that continue through two or more phases, while others are discrete steps. Many of the interrelationships between them cannot be fully depicted in the figure, but are described in the text. They will require careful co-ordination. In the panel's opinion, inadequate attention to any one element of the plan might well bring the orderly long-term management of nuclear fuel wastes to a halt. 

6.1 Phase I: Set-Up

During the set-up phase, the federal government should issue a policy statement governing the long-term management of nuclear fuel wastes, and initiate an Aboriginal participation process as described in the next section. The policy should call for the immediate creation of a nuclear fuel waste management agency (NFWMA). The policy should also specify the NFWMA's mandate and responsibilities in the plan for building and determining acceptability, as detailed in this chapter. During the same phase, the AECB should begin a public review of the regulatory documents pertinent to managing nuclear fuel wastes, as suggested below. The Panel estimates that Phase I should last about one year.

Panel Recommendation

The federal government should issue a policy statement governing the long-term management of nuclear fuel wastes. 

6.1.1 Aboriginal Participation Process

Despite the fact that Aboriginal people may be among those most affected by a concept for managing nuclear fuel wastes, their involvement to date has been inadequate. An Aboriginal participation process would enable them to participate fully in building and determining the acceptability of a concept. Such a process would allow them to thoroughly understand and assess the waste management problem; to help develop options and the ethical and social assessment framework in Phase II; and to participate in all relevant steps and decisions thereafter. Aboriginal people should design and execute the process so that it will be appropriate to their value systems and decision-making processes. They must therefore be given adequate time and resources to do so. While recognizing that this process is critical to Aboriginal people, the Panel believes that it must incorporate negotiated deadlines so that the rights of other concerned participants are respected. Government should begin the process immediately and transfer responsibility for sustaining it to the NFWMA, once that agency is established.

Figure 6: Plan for Building and Determining Acceptability

Figure 6: Plan for Building and Determining Acceptability

In particular, we recommend that the proponent be required to undertake a meaningful process of consultation with representative First Nations communities and umbrella organizations regarding this concept in the Canadian Shield. Such consultation should be funded by AECL but undertaken by First Nations people themselves according to their own methodologies, with their own experts, and according to their own concerns, values and priorities.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, and Grand Council of the Crees (Eenou Estchee) [Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, and Grand Council of the Crees (Eenou Estchee), Summary Final Submission to the Environmental Assessment of the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited High-level Nuclear Waste Disposal Concept (CSS.036, April 1997), p. 3.]

Panel Recommendation

The federal government should immediately initiate an adequately funded participation process with Aboriginal people, who should design and execute the process.

The perspectives and insights of Aboriginal people may usefully inform and influence the future steps this report proposes. Since their culture and way of life rest on their inseparable relationship with the natural environment, they may help to clarify the question of how respect and concern for other species should be weighed against a human-centred ethic. Human and environmental values must be reconciled for the ethical and social assessment framework described in Phase II.

In giving thanks each day and at every meeting, we are reminded that we are no more important than any other parts of this balanced system. Any part of the world which falls or fails can break the chain and circle of life completely. No part of this world is more important than any other. The circle of life is round because it is in balance. Human beings have been given the gift of reason because they have a particular set of responsibilities to the natural world, but it is not a dominion.

Carol Jacobs,
Haudenosaunee Environment Delegate [Carol Jacobs, in Nuclear Fuel Waste Environmental Assessment Panel Public Hearing Transcripts, June 27, 1996, pp. 249-250.] 

6.1.2 Creation of a Nuclear Fuel Waste Management Agency (NFWMA)

For various reasons, there is in many quarters an apprehension about nuclear power that bedevils the activities and proposals of the nuclear industry. If there is to be any confidence in a system for the long-term management of nuclear fuel wastes, a fresh start must be made in the form of a new agency. The agency must be at arm's length from the producers and current owners of the wastes. Its overall commitment must be to safety.

The Joint Committee is concerned that this body have high public credibility and considers that this requires detachment from the organizations which have been closely associated with the generation and handling of nuclear fuel waste.

Joint Committee of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society of Canada [Joint Committee of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society of Canada, Presentation, Phase I, p. 2.]

The mandate and sole purpose of the agency must be to manage and co-ordinate the full range of activities related to all nuclear fuel wastes produced in Canada, whatever management option is chosen. Participants in our public hearings referred to this necessity repeatedly. Responsibilities: Tasks to be Undertaken

Initially, the NFWMA would launch, guide and/or partici-pate in the Phase II measures of the plan for building and determining acceptability. As soon as it was formed, therefore, the NFWMA would:

  • encourage and facilitate Aboriginal participation in all steps and decisions;
  • develop a plan for, and initiate, public participation in all steps and decisions;
  • develop options for managing nuclear fuel wastes;
  • develop an ethical and social assessment framework;
  • develop technical considerations;
  • prepare and present a comparison of the options, as measured against the assessment framework, revised AECB requirements and technical considerations; and
  • closely track social and technical developments in other countries to stay aware of those that might be relevant to Canada.

These tasks are crucial to fostering trust and confidence in the NFWMA, as well as public acceptance of a waste management concept. Board and Staff

The NFWMA should have a small board of directors. Its members' backgrounds and skills should reflect, in a balanced way, the interests of, for example, federal and provincial governments, electrical utilities, and the engineering, science and social science communities. The board would approve agency policy and major agency decisions. The federal government should appoint the board of directors and the president, in consultation with the governments of the provinces with nuclear power.

The staff should be drawn from socio-economic fields (including public involvement and education) and from scientific-technical disciplines (including environment, health and engineering). The staff should be limited to the number of employees needed to ensure effective management and co-ordination.

A mature social program will require a comparable level of expertise and capability to that of the technical program. This requires an assurance that resources will be made available as needed for the proper involvement of highly qualified personnel, skilled in this special field. Their responsibility will be to ensure that the public is well informed about the essential issues and that the different viewpoints of the public are respected in the debates that will inevitably take place as the program evolves.

Joint Committee of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society of Canada [Joint Committee of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society of Canada, Presentation, Phase I, p. 2.]

Most of the agency's scientific and social development work, as well as its operational program, should be carried out under contract. This would make it possible to draw on the wide range of expertise and skills the NFWMA will require at different stages of its life. The agency should make special efforts to hire, train and contract northern, local and Aboriginal individuals and enterprises. Financing

The NFWMA should be fully financed by proportional contributions from the waste producers and owners. There should be no charge to the general taxpayer.

Contributions should be kept in a segregated fund and independently managed. The contributions would come from a levy on users of nuclear-generated electricity and from a proportional contribution by AECL for the wastes it produces. An independent audit should be done to ensure that the present levies are adequate for this purpose and are consistent among the utilities.

The Panel should recommend that the federal government require nuclear reactor operators to establish financial guarantees and real segregated funds to cover the full cost of high-level waste management and burial. The estimates prepared for these costs should be subject to independent public review.

Irene Kock, Nuclear Awareness Project [Irene Kock, in Nuclear Fuel Waste Environmental Assessment Panel Public Hearing Transcripts, March 26, 1996, p. 147.]

The fund, with an appropriate cash-flow mechanism, must be large enough to meet the agency's full costs for developing and comparing waste management options, for siting and designing the selected option, and for completely implementing the project, if a site-specific proposal is accepted. It would also have to cover all costs related to public and Aboriginal participation, environmental assessment, and mitigation and compensation for communities. Advisory Council

The board of directors, president and staff should be complemented by a strong and active advisory council comprising roughly 12 to 20 people. Members should represent a broad range of interested parties: the engineering, science, health and social sciences fields; Aboriginal people; workers; environmental and other non-governmental organizations; ethical and religious groups; concerned Canadians; host and affected communities, once identified; and international bodies. They should be appointed by the federal government, at the same time as the board of directors and the president, on the basis of proposals from professional and other organizations, including those that played an active role in the panel's hearings.

The council should be attentive to the openness and transparency of the NFWMA. It should be particularly active in those areas related to public and Aboriginal participation, environmental assessment, monitoring, mediation and dispute settlement. In addition, it should be heavily involved in all stages of the agency's work on options for long-term management.

Council members should meet frequently with the board and with staff. The council should issue periodic public reports.

Consideration should also be given to the formation of an independent advisory body which would play a role for social and ethical concerns comparable to that of AECL's Technical Advisory Committee.

Joint Committee of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society of Canada [Joint Committee of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society of Canada, Presentation, Phase I, p. 2.]

I think it is very, very important that there are advisory bodies, both to the implementing organization and to government, and that these advisory bodies should include multi-stakeholders because this is a multi-stakeholder problem ...

Ken Nash, Ontario Hydro [Ken Nash, in Nuclear Fuel Waste Environmental Assessment Panel Public Hearing Transcripts, March 29, 1996, p. 144.] Mediation and Dispute Settlement

No matter how much care is taken in establishing the NFWMA and its procedures, disputes will likely arise between the NFWMA and certain interested parties, particularly those in potential host or other potentially affected communities. To help resolve such disputes, an independent authority should be established to receive complaints, to mediate them and, possibly, to arbitrate them. This authority might be an ombudsman or someone attached to the office of the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development. Oversight Mechanisms and Accountability

As part of the process of building trust and credibility, and of establishing its accountability, the NFWMA should be subject to what one participant in the hearings called "a redundancy of oversight mechanisms." [Paul Brown, in Nuclear Fuel Waste Environmental Assessment Panel Public Hearing Transcripts, March 29, 1996, p. 95.] The successor to the AECB would regulate the agency's activities with respect to human health, the natural environment and the adequacy of financial guarantees. The agency's actions should however be driven by the purpose of the regulations, rather than by a narrow interpretation of compliance with the regulations. The NFWMA should be subject to the federal Access to Information Act. It should also receive broad policy direction from the federal government, possibly through the Minister of Health and the Minister of the Environment, to reflect the public concerns it is meant to address. In addition, the NFWMA should be subject to scrutiny by the Auditor General and the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development. It should produce an annual report on its work for Parliament to review. Organizational Options

Broadly, there are two alternatives for the agency's status, with a number of hybrid options. One alternative is a not-for-profit corporation, perhaps formed by the utilities, which would be subject to regulatory controls. This type of entity offers several advantages. It would link ownership of and responsibility for the wastes to the producers, make it simpler to use common law remedies and clarify the producers' financial liabilities. A second alternative is a Crown corporation or similar entity created by federal legislation. Such an entity offers other advantages. Its work can be reviewed regularly, and it would be subject to the oversight mechanisms and public scrutiny that apply to government operations. Such an entity's accountability to the government and to Parliament would be clear. Between these extremes, a number of hybrid options based on public-private partnership should be considered.

Whatever structure is chosen, however, the agency's purposes, responsibilities and accountability must be spelled out as clearly and explicitly as possible, whether by legislation or in a charter of incorporation. Panel Recommendations

Taking into account the views of participants in our public hearings and our own analysis, we have developed the following basic recommendations to governments with respect to a management agency:

  • that a NFWMA as described in this section be established quickly, at arm's length from the utilities and AECL, with the sole purpose of managing and co-ordinating the full range of activities relating to the long-term management of nuclear fuel wastes;
  • that it be fully funded in all its operations from a segregated fund to which only the producers and owners of nuclear fuel wastes would contribute;
  • that its board of directors, appointed by the federal government, be representative of key stakeholders;
  • that it have a strong and active advisory council representative of a wide variety of interested parties;
  • that its purposes, responsibilities and accountability, particularly in relation to the ownership of the wastes, be clearly and explicitly spelled out, preferably in legislation or in its charter of incorporation; and
  • that it be subject to multiple oversight mechanisms, including federal regulatory control with respect to its scientific-technical work and the adequacy of its financial guarantees, policy direction from the federal government and regular public review, preferably by Parliament. 

6.1.3 Public Review of AECB Regulatory Documents

Another measure to be initiated in Phase I is a public review of the AECB regulatory documents pertinent to managing nuclear fuel wastes. Risk and safety must be placed in a social context, so that people can make decisions based not only on technical and scientific factors, but also on societal values. A key part of this process is embodied, either explicitly or implicitly, in regulations that determine whether the regulatory body will judge a facility to be acceptable. Thus, such regulations have both a technical and a social dimension. As noted by the AECB, the criteria contained in the relevant regulatory documents (R-71, R-72, R-90 and R-104) "attempt to embody not only technical considerations but also much broader social and ethical ones." [Atomic Energy Control Board, Atomic Energy Control Board Criteria: Request for Supplementary Information from Nuclear Fuel Waste Environmental Assessment Panel (Ottawa: Atomic Energy Control Board, enclosure accompanying letter from J.G. McManus to J.B. Seaborn, February 5, 1993), p. 3.] These include issues of intergenerational responsibility, reflec-tion of current social values in setting quantitative risk limits, and simultaneous consideration of both social and technical issues.

The regulatory documents define requirements that various types of nuclear fuel waste facilities must meet. Thus, they form a critical component of the criteria by which safety and acceptability will be judged. However, a number of participants in the hearings felt that these requirements did not, in fact, reflect an adequate process of social input, nor were they consistent with the regulation of other types of contaminants. After comparing the regulatory criteria for managing nuclear fuel and other wastes (see section 2.2.1 and Appendix J), the Panel thinks that it would be desirable to develop common risk assessment and management methods, and common and publicly accepted risk criteria, so that relative risks might be fairly judged.

I think R-104 in itself and its development and acceptance in 1987 with only nine public comments, I don't think it meets the test of public participation. I think we have to question the kind of scientific work that was done, the peer review that was done for that work and so on. And I think if R-104 can't meet those tests itself, can it serve as an appropriate test for assessing the AECL concept or any other projects that it is used in the assessment of?

Brennain Lloyd, Northwatch [Brennain Lloyd, in Nuclear Fuel Waste Environmental Assessment Panel Public Hearing Transcripts, March 27, 1997, p. 169.]

The AECB should consider designing and implementing a more effective process for consulting the public during the production of regulatory standards. In most cases, few people participate in the AECB's current 90-day period for written comments. This process does not adequately achieve the AECB's goal of ensuring effective public participation. It also does not give the public confidence that the AECB has placed technical considerations of risk and safety into a societal context.

Panel Recommendation

Taking into account the importance of a trustworthy regulator in gaining acceptability, we recommend that the AECB design and implement a more effective process for consulting the public during the production of regulatory standards; and that it undertake a public review of all relevant regulatory documents based on this process and on the new Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

This review should start immediately so that the revised regulatory documents can influence the development and comparison of options in Phase II. However, the documents may require further revision in light of the ethical and social assessment framework to be developed later in Phase II. While the Panel does not wish to be unduly prescriptive, a number of issues that emerged during our hearing process should receive full consideration during the review of regulatory documents. These are enumerated in Appendix P. In addition, the Panel wishes to highlight one critical issue: the Regulatory Document R-104 requirements concerning the analysis of exposure scenarios. Scenario Development and Analysis

Discussions at our hearings of what constitutes reasonable "worst-case scenarios" for the release of radiation from spent fuel revealed an important interface between the technical and social perspectives of safety. The public is vitally concerned with this issue. Its confidence in any conclusions reached through analyzing such scenarios will depend, in part, on the degree to which it has been involved in defining the cases to be analyzed. A number of participants mentioned that it is very difficult to define "worst-case scenarios," because even more extreme events can always be imagined. While recognizing this difficulty, the Panel believes that the public can balance conservatism and realism when defining the events.

Furthermore, some participants believed that the standard practice of accounting for the probability of an event when calculating its risk is not in step with public concerns. These concerns tend to focus on the potentially high consequences of extreme events, rather than on their low probability of occurrence. Thus, the affected public(s) should be consulted to ensure they understand and agree with the proposed methods of analysis and the way conclusions will be drawn from the results.

Panel Conclusion

Open and well-publicized public participation in defining extreme events of concern, and the methods used to analyze them, will be a prerequisite for gaining broad acceptance that public safety has been thoroughly considered.

This advice applies not only to the review of AECB regulatory documents, but also to the NFWMA's develop-ment of options and a public participation plan during Phase II, and to the assessment of a site-specific design in Phase III. 

6.2 Phase II: Concept Acceptance

The purpose of the concept acceptance phase is to determine which concept for managing nuclear fuel wastes is most acceptable to the general public. The NFWMA should develop and compare options, including a modified AECL disposal concept, in the context of an ethical and social assessment framework, revised AECB regulatory documents and technical considerations. To involve the public fully, the NFWMA should develop and implement a public participation plan. In addition, the Aboriginal participation initiated in Phase I should continue through the steps of Phase II. The Panel anticipates that Phase II would last about two years. 

6.2.1 Public Participation Process

As indicated in other parts of this report, the Panel believes that the chances of finding an acceptable concept and site(s) will be remote unless there is early and thorough public participation in all aspects of managing nuclear fuel wastes. Broad Canadian public participation must be an integral part of any of the remaining steps and processes described in this chapter. To achieve this, the NFWMA must develop and implement a plan for informing and communicating with the public. Past public participation strategies, although well intended, do not appear to have been effective because a significant portion of the public did not trust the nuclear industry and the regulatory agency. The creation of the NFWMA provides a new opportunity. To this end, the NFWMA should identify a comprehensive group of professional communicators and adult educators who will work with related professionals and the public to develop and direct the plan. A critical task of this group will be to recommend methods for testing public opinion and benchmarks for measuring public acceptance. The NFWMA will apply these when deciding which options to recommend.

The Joint Committee considers that, to carry for-ward the long term management and disposal of Canada's nuclear fuel waste, the implementing organization will need to give the highest priority to developing a group skilled in public education and the processes of public involvement.

Joint Committee of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society of Canada [Joint Committee of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society of Canada, Presentation, Phase I, p. 2.]

Panel Recommendation

Governments should direct the NFWMA to develop a comprehensive public participation plan. Information and Communication Plan

The plan should consist of an ongoing interactive process between citizens and the NFWMA, which will act as the proponent. It should include two important components: information and communication.

The plan should aim to:

  • ensure that the public has an appropriate level of knowledge of and control over nuclear fuel waste management in Canada and that such management is in keeping with changing public priorities, particular-ly in light of the dread factor about nuclear issues;
  • develop and sustain trust and confidence in the NFWMA authorities and the scientific community over a long period of time; and
  • achieve informed and collective acceptance at every stage of development.

Public participation must be incorporated in a comprehensive and credible manner throughout future steps. This implies that the public must accept the plan before it is implemented.

As an important part of the plan, a decision-making scheme should be prepared that clearly outlines the following processes, step by step: how future steps will unfold; what decisions will be made, by whom and based on what information; and when the public or potential host or affected communities will be able to participate or help make decisions. In particular, the decision-making roles and responsibilities of the provinces should be delineated. The NFWMA needs to communicate this information to everyone concerned in the process, so that they know what to expect. Principles and Procedures for Development and Implementation
  • Throughout the process, information must be made accessible to the public in ways appropriate to a variety of constituencies.
  • Sharing information that highlights uncertainties as well as certainties is likely to foster trust and to enhance the credibility of the NFWMA.
  • Information and communication should be structured as a two-way system between the public(s) and the NFWMA.
  • During Phase III, the public, as well as potential host and affected communities, will need access to expertise in scientific and social science disciplines. Hence, a participant funding program will be needed.
  • The NFWMA should develop a professional com-munication management structure to respond to various regional and local requirements. Communication tools should be integrated to activate and support working groups representing all communities of interest, such as marginalized and non-organized groups, local governments, and community and interest groups.
  • The NFWMA should pay particular attention to involving regional and local media, as the media play an important role in a two-way communication plan. 

6.2.2 Development of Options

As explained in sections 2.2.3 and 4.3, being able to make an informed choice between options for managing nuclear fuel wastes is an important component of acceptability. For that purpose, the NFWMA must begin to develop comparative information on the risks, costs and benefits of a number of practicable options, including a modified version of the AECL concept. While it would be ideal to have as much information on other options as has been developed for the AECL concept, this is not only impractical, but unnecessary.

... 15 years ago-it was believed that to adequate-ly assess the risk of more than one alternative was going to be impossible because it was believed that we needed to take that risk assessment, to be credible and to be professional about it, to the degree that AECL has done it, which is an amazing amount of work. What we have subsequently discovered is that we can screen alternatives using risk-based screens, moral and ethical base screens, intergenerational screening criteria... . Then you can short list, if you will, the disposal alternatives...

Dr. Stella Swanson, Golder Associates [Stella Swanson, in Nuclear Fuel Waste Environmental Assessment Panel Public Hearing Transcripts, March 15, 1996, pp. 193-194.]

Panel Recommendation

Governments should direct the NFWMA to develop practicable long-term waste management options for Canada, including the following: a modified AECL concept for deep geological disposal; storage at reactor sites; and centralized storage, either above or below ground. Should additional options become technically and economically feasible, they should also be considered. In addition, governments should direct the NFWMA to monitor closely all international progress on options for managing nuclear fuel wastes.

In the preceding recommendation, the Panel has listed the options it believes the NFWMA must consider. In doing so, it has retained deep geological disposal based on the AECL concept for several reasons: it is the technically preferred research option internationally; much effort has already been devoted to its realization; and it is consistent with current regulations. Authorities in other countries, however, are increasingly considering centralized storage as one element of a program for managing nuclear fuel wastes, due to possible greater public acceptance of a facility that is readily amenable to long-term monitoring and waste retrieval. We have also recommended that the NFWMA consider storage at reactor sites. Current storage practices, while they would require modification for very long-term use, are already widely considered to be safe, economical and acceptable; they would also minimize transportation of nuclear fuel wastes. Some advantages and disadvantages of the various options are outlined in Appendix L.

In addition to developing comparative information on the options, the NFWMA should develop solutions for some outstanding technical and social questions that are important to building and determining acceptability of a concept. With regard to the AECL disposal concept, the Panel believes that better technologies for safe post-closure monitoring and retrieval must be developed and incorporated. These modifications would not only help provide the degree of security needed to earn public confidence; they would also satisfy the need to strike a balance between minimizing the responsibility placed on future generations and maximizing their choices.

... the performance of any initial repository of this magnitude will have to be closely monitored for a very long time in order to verify if the engineering predictions are validated. To think the repository will necessarily perform essentially as we predict is an enormous arrogance... . We recommend that retrievability, repositioning and even movement of the waste also be considered as options if serious geologic discoveries or engineering problems indicate such a need.

The Geoscience Aspects of Nuclear Fuel Waste Disposal Committee of the Canadian Geoscience Council [Canadian Geoscience Council, Geoscience Aspects of Nuclear Fuel Waste Disposal Committee, Review of the AECL Environmental Impact Statement, pp. 10-12.]

We presented the position that the degree of uncertainty about the potential performance of the disposal system is so great that the public would require the assurance that we could continually monitor any potential leakage from the containers so that, if problems were to develop, appropriate remedial action could be undertaken... . If containers are leaking, we want to know about it before the contaminants have a chance to move beyond the confines of the vault... . we accept that at present it is unclear how a non-invasive system could be designed for perpetual monitoring of the area surrounding the containers. This suggests to us that the technology is not yet available to provide the degree of security through long-term monitoring which would be required for public confidence in a permanent disposal system.

Ann Coxworth, Saskatchewan Environmental Society [Ann Coxworth, in Nuclear Fuel Waste Environmental Assessment Panel Public Hearing Transcripts, November 20, 1996, pp. 103-104 and p. 108.]

The issue of post-closure monitoring is difficult from both the technical and social viewpoints. It is debatable whether any sensible safety case can be made for monitoring post-closure. The repository system is expected to evolve very slowly and there are no performance related parameters which are clearly amenable to measurement and also of obvious safety relevance. However, there may be a social demand for some kind of monitoring which must be met... . The necessity and the requirements for post-closure monitoring need further consideration in all countries and, if considered a desirable course of action, the concepts and technology would need further development.

OECD Nuclear Energy Agency Review Group [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Nuclear Energy Agency Review Group, The Disposal of Canada's Nuclear Fuel Waste, p. 18 and p. 21.]

At this stage, the NFWMA must also develop modelling methodologies and estimate the availability of sites. While these items address criticisms of the AECL concept, they apply to all options. The Panel believes that the best available predictive modelling techniques should be used, and that these should be consistent between options. Specifically, the Panel is convinced that the models should be critically reviewed and updated, and that this process should include significant and transparent external input. Also, the NFWMA should develop preliminary technical and social siting criteria, and best estimates of the availability of sites for each option based on these criteria, to permit better comparisons and decisions on the most acceptable concept for managing wastes.

6.2.3 Development of an Ethical and Social Assessment Framework

To assess broad public acceptability, the NFWMA must measure options for managing nuclear fuel wastes against not only the technical criteria, but also the predominant values held by Canadian society. To delineate these values, the NFWMA should either hire or contract a group of social scientists and ethicists, who would establish an assessment framework with input from the public. Based on what we heard, the framework would address ethical issues such as those discussed in Chapter 4 and those listed below, in the contexts of managing nuclear fuel wastes and of linking these issues to policy decisions:

  • the rights and responsibilities of current and future generations;
  • responsibilities to the environment and ecological integrity;
  • societal versus individual rights;
  • the needs of significant minorities who may incur risks involuntarily;
  • the degree to which the public should be able to hear different schools of thought in discussions preceding decisions;
  • risks that are worth taking, given the probability of harm;
  • procedures for arriving at collective consent; and
  • retrievability versus irretrievability of the wastes, and which option is morally preferable. [The last three points are rephrased versions of information from Hardy Stevens and Associates, Moral and Ethical Issues, cited in Anna Cathrall et al, A Report to the FEARO Panel, Volume 2, pp. 26-27.]

The framework would also address social and environmental issues and priorities such as the following:

  • socially oriented siting criteria, such as valued cultural and ecosystem components;
  • the consistency of the options with Canadian policies on hazardous waste management, environmental protection and sustainable development;
  • effects on communities' self-image, economic vitality, social development and cohesion, and relationship with the land;
  • trade-offs in terms of potential siting territories, affected natural resources, economic advantages and disadvantages, and social controversies;
  • the degree to which a demonstration project should be part of a waste management approach;
  • liabilities in case of accidents; and
  • cost effectiveness.

We would recommend to the Panel, and to the scholarly community at large, that (as the above review shows) we have barely begun to address the obvious philosophical themes, let alone their complex interweaving with social, distributional, psychological, and other contributing elements to the nuclear waste issue.

Anna Cathrall, Mary Lou Harley, Brenda Lee, and Peter Timmerman, Canadian Coalition for Ecology, Ethics, and Religion [Anna Cathrall et al, A Report to the FEARO Panel, Volume 2, p. 30.]

No single framework can properly capture every relevant societal value over a long period of time, as values change and new generations come into being. Given the extended time frame for implementing a concept for managing nuclear fuel wastes, the NFWMA should design a step-by-step evaluation process. This process would allow present and future generations to re-evaluate periodically the acceptability of the concept according to the values and priorities of the day, and to make choices as decisions are taken.

We are aware that the Terms of Reference ask the Panel to consider the degree to which we should relieve future generations of the burden of looking after the wastes. Some participants saw looking after the wastes not as a burden, but as an opportunity for future generations to make appropriate and responsible choices within the ethical and social framework. They viewed it as a way of keeping some measure of control over decisions affecting their lives and thereby of retaining public confidence. In that sense, a step-by-step evaluation process was not considered to be a burden, even if more diligent management would be required. However, in the panel's view, this must not preclude the current generation's right and responsibility to take action. An appropriate balance between the rights of current and future generations must be found.

The burden of an imposed responsibility may be a lesser evil if the alternative is to inflict a threat of harm with no possibility of mitigating the harm. The monitoring system/retrieval option gives future generations options they might not otherwise have. So yes, responsibility is a burden. On the other hand, that's not all it is.

Dr. Peter Miller, University of Winnipeg [Peter Miller, in Nuclear Fuel Waste Environmental Assessment Panel Public Hearing Transcripts, March 12, 1996, p. 200.]

The issues concerned include the impact the program will have on generations, regions, race and income. Considerable emphasis is placed on the responsibility not to burden later generations with finding the solution to the waste being generated today. The Joint Committee agrees with this general principle but also cautions that flexibility needs to be retained to allow for changing approaches to the disposal problem and views on the future value and usefulness of nuclear fuel waste. Does the nuclear fuel waste indeed present an urgent problem at this time requiring rapid attention? Even if this is the case, is the AECL concept necessarily the best solution?

Joint Committee of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society of Canada [Joint Committee of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society of Canada, Presentation, Phase I, p. 5.]

Panel Recommendation

Governments should direct the NFWMA to develop an ethical and social assessment framework.

6.2.4 Technical Considerations

It is self-evident that many scientific and engineering factors must be incorporated into the development of any approach for managing nuclear fuel wastes. Among these are issues such as the choice of appropriate methods of modelling and analysis, the evaluation of safety from a technical perspective, considerations of efficiency and cost. However, as noted in Figure 6, such technical considerations must not be developed in isolation but must be informed by ethical and social considerations to provide a comprehensive framework for assessing various options for managing nuclear fuel wastes. 

6.2.5 Comparison of Options to Decide Which is the Most Acceptable

Having set the stage through all prior steps, the NFWMA should publicly examine the options for managing nuclear fuel wastes. It will recommend to governments ways to measure the broad public support needed to proceed with Phase III. These could include, among other methods, a poll, a referendum, an expert panel process, or a parliamentary committee with public hearings. Options and their proposed siting territories should be compared on the basis of the following:

  • the revised AECB regulatory documents;
  • the ethical and social assessment framework, includ-ing risks, costs and benefits;
  • technical considerations; and
  • the degree of acceptance by Aboriginal people and the public in general.
Panel Recommendation

Governments should direct the NFWMA to compare the risks, costs and benefits of practicable long-term options for managing nuclear fuel wastes. It will present these options to the public, along with their proposed siting territories, in sufficient detail to enable governments to make an informed choice that reflects public preferences. The means by which governments will take public preferences into account must be made formal and explicit. 

6.3 Phase III: Project Acceptance

The purpose of the project acceptance phase is to determine whether a site- and design-specific application of the concept selected in Phase II is acceptable, not just to the general public, governments and the regulator, but especially to the potential host community and other directly affected communities. To this end, the NFWMA would undertake a siting and facility design process that would culminate in public hearings and a final decision on project acceptability.

At the end of Phase II, if the AECL disposal concept is chosen as the most acceptable one for managing nuclear fuel wastes, it will require additional development beyond that warranted for the comparison of options. This should take place before the NFWMA proceeds to siting and facility design.

Panel Recommendation

If the AECL concept is chosen as the most acceptable concept at the end of Phase II, governments should direct the NFWMA, together with Natural Resources Canada and the AECB or its successor, to undertake the following: review all the social and technical shortcomings identified by the SRG and other review participants; establish their priority; and generate a plan to address them. The NFWMA should make this plan publicly available, invite public input, then implement the plan. 

6.3.1 Siting and Facility Design

It may also review general criteria for site selection and advise governments on a future site selection process in addition to examining, in general terms, the costs and benefits to potential host communities.

Terms of Reference

The suggested process outlined in this section would apply if the AECL disposal concept was selected at the end of Phase II. Many aspects would also apply to siting another type of centralized disposal, storage and/or treatment facility, or even decentralized storage at the reactor sites. However, the process may be incompatible with those appropriate for Aboriginal people. In such a case, the NFWMA must try to reconcile the two perspectives.

AECL proposed that any waste management organization should be committed to the principles of safety and environmental protection, voluntarism, shared decision-making, openness and fairness throughout siting and concept implementation. The Panel acknowledges and commends AECL for its work; however, some public participants and panel members felt it lacked detail and specificity. Therefore, the Panel has expanded AECL's principles and incorporated additional requirements into a suggested siting process.

In the EIS, AECL described the technical aspects of the potential availability of suitable sites in the Canadian Shield, and of a methodology for characterizing sites. These are described briefly in section 3.3.1 of this report. We have reservations as to whether AECL has adequately demonstrated the availability of technically suitable sites. In general, we agree with the AECL proposals for technical site characterization, though we have suggestions as to how the public should be involved in establishing the siting criteria. Essential Considerations

Essential considerations for the siting process are threefold:

  • First, the commitment to safety, health and environmental protection must never be compromised. If any of these are jeopardized, the site must be rejected.
  • Second, no search for a site should be undertaken in areas that do not meet basic siting criteria on both social and technical grounds.
  • Third, an informed public must help establish decision-making processes at an early stage and throughout the project. To win public confidence in the process, the NFWMA must commit itself to an extensive, balanced, and ongoing two-way public communication, education and information program.

There are lessons we can draw from the siting of hazardous waste facilities, some of which have been successful. These studies suggest the importance of building agency credibility through genuine commitment by policy makers to public participation, the designing of methods for meaning-ful information exchange and public dialogue on the issues, promotion of equity in risk distribution, sharing in project benefits (in part through compensation to communities bearing the risks), and the adoption of mitigation and control procedures that include strict safety standards and significant citizen roles in facility oversight and operating decisions.

Dr. Michael Kraft,

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay [Michael Kraft, in Nuclear Fuel Waste Environmental Assessment Panel Public Hearing Transcripts, March 27, 1996, pp. 112-113.] Principles and Safeguards

Experience with siting waste facilities of any kind, and particularly those for hazardous wastes, indicates that the public is just as concerned with the process used to select a site as with the technical safety of the facility. The socio-economic aspects of siting are inextricably interwoven with the technical aspects.

Successful Canadian siting process experience shows us that the thought that goes into the design of the siting process, the public involvement and communications strategy and socio-economic considerations have major implications on the overall chances of success. The most important choice involves the design of the process to be used to seek approval.

David R. Hardy,

Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited [David R. Hardy, "High-level Radioactive Waste Siting Processes: Critical Lessons from Canadian Siting Successes," Proceedings of the 1996 International Conference on Deep Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste, pp. 10-18.]

The siting process must therefore adhere to the following principles and safeguards adapted from a number of sources, including D. Hardy, K.R. Ballard and R.G. Kuhn, [See preceding entry and K.R. Ballard and R.G. Kuhn, "Testing Community Empowered Siting for Canadian Nuclear Waste," Proceedings of the 1996 International Conference on Deep Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste, pp. 10-1-10-20.] and review participants.

  • Willingness of a community to invite site investigation would not represent a final commitment to host a facility.
  • No community would host a facility against its will. A potential host community must have the right to opt out of the siting process until the final binding agreement is signed. It must also have the right to decide, at an early stage, how that final decision would be taken. A simple majority would not necessarily indicate acceptance of a facility.

... Deep River, like every volunteer community, had the right to withdraw from the process at any time... . It made it possible to stay in the process, to the final decision point, by choice, as the community was in control, not some other body.

Mayor John Murphy, Town of Deep River [John Murphy, in Nuclear Fuel Waste Environmental Assessment Panel Public Hearing Transcripts, May 2, 1996, p. 4.]

  • The NFWMA should negotiate with the potential host community to offer it a net benefit commensurate with its part in resolving the problem.
  • At an early stage, the NFWMA would work with the community to develop proposals for monitoring and compensation, in order to track and offset unavoidable negative effects, to build public confidence and to enhance local benefits. These proposals would be in addition to all reasonable measures to reduce and mitigate adverse effects. The negotiating parties would fully review this package before finalizing the agreement.
  • Even if an informed community voluntarily agrees to host a facility, construction would not proceed until it had been demonstrated that the safety, health and environmental protection standards set by the regulatory authority could be met and enforced.
  • Adequate time should be built into the process to allow citizens to understand the technical, social and environmental implications of the project before final decisions are taken.
  • Early in the process, the negotiating parties would agree on processes for resolving conflict and mediating disputes, and would find ways to include significant minority opinions in decision-making.
  • The NFWMA would bear the costs related to the following: access by potential host and affected communities to the services of a community facilitator and to social scientists, as recommended in this report; access to independent social, technical and environmental consultants for peer reviews of the final proposal, on behalf of the community; and any work done by the community liaison group (CLG) that relates to the public participation processes for potential host and affected communities. (See section for a description of a CLG.) Siting and Transportation Criteria

First, the NFWMA and its advisory council would propose and publicize the criteria for selecting a site and transportation routes. These would be used to judge a region's suitability to host a facility. Based on existing or readily available technical and social information, these criteria would indicate the characteristics a suitable region must have and include aspects of social, environmental and technical acceptability for siting. The site selection criteria should relate to such matters as:

  • geology, hydrogeology, topography and seismic activity;
  • present and future land use (agriculture, forestry, resource extraction, Crown and Aboriginal lands);
  • environmentally sensitive areas (such as parks and habitats of endangered species);
  • socially valued areas (recreational and archaeological sites, and culturally, spiritually and historically significant areas); and
  • areas protected by legislation and regulations.

Any future proponent should be encouraged to quickly develop a site selection and screening process which focuses both on technical and social factors, and how they interrelate, as well as on site screening and rejection mechanisms which could be used during early stages of the siting process.

Atomic Energy Control Board Staff [Atomic Energy Control Board Staff, AECB Staff Response, p. 7.]

The criteria applicable to transportation routes would relate to such matters as:

  • availability and suitability of existing infrastructure;
  • safety of existing or new infrastructure under varying weather conditions;
  • service infrastructure along the route for normal and accident conditions;
  • socio-economic impacts on affected communities; and
  • impact on the environment and wildlife and avoidance of sensitive areas.

The proposed site and transportation route selection criteria should be submitted to the broad Canadian public for consideration. The NFWMA should give particular consideration to the interests and concerns of people in specific locations (remote, northern, Aboriginal and developed areas) and the potential effects on their environment. It should use a structured process, agreed to by all parties, to give major interested parties input into developing the criteria. The NFWMA should solicit comment from the federal and provincial governments, Aboriginal people, regulators, existing nuclear host communities, northern communities and participants in the public hearings of the Panel. Once agreed to, the criteria would be applied by the NFWMA to the siting territories to produce a map indicating possible siting regions. The map would be made widely available to the public, before communities are invited to express an interest in hosting a facility. At a later stage in the process, these criteria would be refined to suit specific locations. Call for Expressions of Interest

The NFWMA would publicly invite communities within the siting regions to submit expressions of interest in hosting a facility. It would release an information package that would include, at a minimum, the following details:

  • background information on how and why the present waste management option was chosen;
  • the siting criteria and the map of siting regions and territories;
  • a statement of the NFWMA's commitment to adhere to the essential considerations, principles and safeguards presented earlier in this section, all of which should be available in the information package;
  • a description of the type of facility envisaged, and the estimated cost and duration of construction, operation and decommissioning phases;
  • the NFWMA's plans to appoint a siting task force (STF) as its agent to pursue detailed negotiations with interested communities;
  • the STF's terms of reference and work plan for the siting process; and
  • an announcement that the NFWMA would organize regional briefing sessions for interested communities to clarify questions. Definition of Community

After the briefing sessions, interested communities should study the information package to clarify concerns, and to understand opportunities for community participation in the siting process. One pertinent question is, "What is a community?" Addressing this question, the Mayor of Deep River stated, "I would strongly advise that this issue be resolved early in any future use of the Co-operative Siting Process." [John Murphy, in Nuclear Fuel Waste Environmental Assessment Panel Public Hearing Transcripts, May 2, 1996, p. 16.] A potential host community may be a municipality, region or Aboriginal community. In some instances it may extend beyond present political jurisdictions and be identified by environmental, sociological or economic criteria. However, it must be a body or bodies with authority to enter into legal agreements. Community boundaries may overlap several jurisdictions, and their definitions should be jointly established as soon as possible with adjacent territories and "affected communities." An unique definition of community was put forward by an Aboriginal group.

The problem with this principle [voluntarism] , from an Aboriginal perspective, is that the definition of community appears to be bound to municipal boundaries. Nishnawbe Aski Nation is an organization of 50 First Nations with a common interest in their collective traditional territory. As noted earlier, this is an extensive territory covering much of the land mass of Ontario. To site a nuclear fuel waste facility in any part of this territory affects the whole of NAN... . At the very least, the concept of community voluntarism should be expanded to the level of Tribal Council where First Nations communities act closely with one another in the use and development of their lands.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation [Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Review of the AECL Environmental Impact Statement on the Nuclear Fuel Waste Management and Disposal Concept (Pub.028, August 1995), p. 4.]

An "affected community" is a geographically adjacent municipality, Aboriginal entity or community of common interest along the transportation routes of a facility, or in a geographic area otherwise affected by the facility or its transportation activities. The boundaries of "affected communities" could be defined by several criteria, not just political ones. While affected communities would not have the power of veto, they could and should negotiate their particular terms in the siting process with the STF and the potential host community.

If a potentially suitable site is identified on Crown lands, the appropriate authorities would have to involve the people of potentially affected communities using the same methods that would be used for communities with legal authority over the land.

After the issue of the definition of "community" has been negotiated and resolved, the municipal council or equivalent body of a potential host community may pass a formal resolution to continue with the siting process. If so, the NFWMA should offer the community a more substantial information package containing the specific details of the siting process, as set out in this chapter and in Appendix O. Preliminary Steps Leading to Agreement of a Community to Host a Facility

It is very important that Council establish firmly, in advance, what the community's priorities are.

Mayor John Murphy, Town of Deep River [John Murphy, in Nuclear Fuel Waste Environmental Assessment Panel Public Hearing Transcripts, May 2, 1996, pp. 20-21.]

  • A social scientist(s) appointed by the municipal council would prepare a community profile, in consul-tation with the STF.
  • A community facilitator from outside the community would be appointed by the municipal council, in consultation with the STF, and would be confirmed later by the CLG.
  • On the basis of the community profile, and with the expertise of the facilitator, a CLG would be formed to involve citizens substantively in all stages of decision-making. It would advise the municipal council and communicate with the STF and with people in various sectors of the potential host and affected communities. The facilitator would develop the CLG's terms of reference and help establish the CLG. Members of the CLG should represent existing groups in different sectors of the community and serve with limited, staggered terms of office.

We would suggest that some liaison group ... advisor group, a direct link to the community and of the community is essential in a siting process that aims for voluntary acceptance.

Donna Oates, Insight and Solutions [Donna Oates, in Nuclear Fuel Waste Environmental Assessment Panel Public Hearing Transcripts, May 2, 1996, p. 66.]

  • All parties should make full use of the community facilitator and the CLG to explore possible agreement.
  • If interest in hosting a facility was still significant, the municipal council would seek a preliminary agreement from the community to continue with the process and to enter into detailed negotiations with the STF.

More detail is provided in Appendix O. Detailed Negotiations

The STF and the municipal council, in close collaboration with the CLG and affected communities, as appropriate, would do the following:

  • refine the previously agreed-on general siting criteria and develop other siting criteria specific to the community;
  • identify potential candidate sites and their design options;
  • negotiate measures to mitigate adverse impacts and maximize benefits, such as employment, upgrading of local residents' skills and use of local suppliers;
  • negotiate and agree on monitoring procedures for all phases of the project; and
  • negotiate and agree on other related matters important to the community, such as transportation routes.

More detail is provided in Appendix O. Community Checkpoint

The potential host community would solicit independent technical, social and environmental peer assessments of the facility design and relevant transportation design options before making a final decision. Following the completion of the assessments, a thorough community review and discussion among all interested parties should take place. The community may want to assess whether the NFWMA has honoured the "Essential Considerations" and "Safeguards and Principles" outlined in this report. Possible revisions to any previous agreements would then be negotiated. After such a review, an agreement-in-principle would be negotiated between the potential host community and the NFWMA. It would include all the points listed in section

... once you have your technical plan clearly understood by the community, they may not think that their concerns are being addressed. You may have to modify that technical plan to allow the community to keep pace with it, to allow them time to understand the fundamentals of the studies as they come out, and you may need to modify the plan to allow for adequate consultation at certain stages...

Donna Oates, Insight and Solutions [Donna Oates, in Nuclear Fuel Waste Environmental Assessment Panel Public Hearing Transcripts, May 2, 1996, p. 68.] Steps Leading to the Final Selection of a Site for the Facility
  • The agreement-in-principle would first be presented to the NFWMA for approval.
  • The agreement-in-principle would then be given to the potential host community in accordance with the agreed-on method for ratification or rejection.
  • If the community approves the agreement-in-principle, the municipal council or equivalent would enter into a formal, binding agreement with the NFWMA as to the conditions under which the development will proceed.
  • The NFWMA would then undertake detailed exploration of the site(s) to determine whether a facility design meets all the requirements of the regulator for safety and the protection of health and the environment. If the regulator's requirements cannot be met, the potential host community would no longer be bound by the agreement.
  • If transportation routes were not previously identified, the STF would then select preferred transportation routes and modes of transport. Consultations would be held with affected communities along the transportation route to negotiate mitigation measures.
Panel Recommendation

Governments should direct the NFWMA to commit itself, to the degree desired by potential host and affected communities, to the process suggested in this section.

6.3.2 Public Hearings to Decide Whether Project is Acceptable

A full environmental assessment and public hearings should be held as the final step in Phase III to ensure broad public support for developing the proposed facility at the selected site. A candidate site may still be rejected as a result of these hearings. If the project is accepted, it would be implemented. If not, governments and the NFWMA would have to re-evaluate their plan, taking into account the circumstances of the rejection.