Who Looks After Radioactive Waste?
Policy and legislative framework
The Government of Canada has put in place a structure of policies, legislation and responsible organizations that govern the management of radioactive wastes in Canada. Canadian government departments, agencies and the nuclear industry have clear roles and responsibilities through the Radioactive Waste Policy Framework (1996) to ensure the safe management of radioactive waste.
Under the Framework, waste producers and owners are responsible, also known as the “polluter pays principle”, for the funding, management and operation of waste management facilities and other facilities required for their wastes. The Policy Framework recognizes that long-term management arrangements may be different for the categories of radioactive wastes specifically used nuclear fuel, low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste, and uranium mining and milling waste.
What is the role of CNSC?
The operation of Canada’s waste management facilities are regulated and monitored by the CNSC to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians as well as the environment.
The licensing, monitoring and inspecting of radioactive waste is a vital part of CNSC’s mandate. To fulfill its mandate, the CNSC co-ordinates and implements policies, strategies and plans, with its federal and international partners, dedicated to ensuring that waste owners and those possessing of radioactive wastes treat, handle manage and store these wastes in a safe and secure manner.
In addition to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and its associated Regulations, documents that guide the CNSC’s waste management program are:
- Regulatory Policy, P-290, Managing Radioactive Waste (2004)
- Regulatory Guide, G-320, Assessing the Long-Term Safety of Radioactive Waste Management (2006)
Like at any other nuclear facility, the CNSC imposes rigorous reporting requirements on the operators of nuclear waste management facilities. CNSC staff monitors waste management facilities’ overall compliance with safety requirements through facility inspections and audits.
What are CNSC’s international responsibilities?
In addition to national arrangements, the CNSC collaborates with various agencies (its counterparts in other countries and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada) to ensure that nuclear cooperation is conducted consistently with international agreements.
The CNSC’s participation in the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management is a good example. This international agreement aims to ensure worldwide safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste—an objective that is achieved through the peer review of a country’s waste management programs. The CNSC is responsible for coordinating Canada’s responsibilities under the Joint Convention. Read Canada’s National Reports on Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.