Media Kit: Near Surface Disposal Facility
The Record of Decision is now available here.
On this page
- About the project
- Licensing and regulatory process
- Timeline of key milestones
- Roles of the CNSC and the Commission in nuclear licensing
- Highlights – Key facts
- Additional resources
- Media contact
About the project
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has been authorized to construct an engineered facility, called a near surface disposal facility (NSDF), to dispose of low-level radioactive waste at the Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) site in Deep River, Ontario. Low-level radioactive waste includes contaminated building materials, soils, and operational equipment (for example, protective shoe covers, clothing, rags, mops, equipment and tools).
The NSDF will be a mound built at near-surface level, consisting of multiple disposal cells made of systems that cover the base and top of each cell, collect leachate, detect leaks, and monitor the surrounding environment. The final cover will be installed on each cell once the cell is full. The total capacity of phase 1 (cells 1 to 6) will be 525,000 m3 and phase 2 (cells 7 to 10) will be 475,000 m3, for a total NSDF capacity of 1 million m3. The NSDF will have an expected operating life of at least 50 years.
The project will also include:
- a wastewater treatment plant
supporting infrastructure, such as:
- security systems to monitor access and egress
- a truck wheel wash, vehicle monitoring and weighing stations
- workstations and change facilities, construction trailers, and marine containers or tents for storage of construction materials
Licensing and regulatory process
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has conducted an environmental and licensing technical assessment of this proposal. Comments and questions have been received throughout the environmental assessment process, from Indigenous Nations and communities, environmental and other special interest groups, and members of the public.
CNSC staff have completed an exhaustive and rigorous assessment of the application against all regulatory requirements, which included:
- Environmental assessment legislation: CNL must demonstrate that the proposed NSDF would be safe for the environment and the public – both now and during its entire lifecycle. The NSDF cannot proceed unless the Commission is satisfied activities can be carried out safely.
- Public engagement: Public engagement allows the CNSC to obtain valuable information and to hear concerns and address questions about proposed projects – leading to a better, more informed review.
- Licensing, Commission hearings and compliance: The CNSC’s subject matter experts review applications for licences according to regulatory requirements and enforce compliance with the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. With this technical expertise, the CNSC makes recommendations to the independent Commission.
- Indigenous consultation: Since the beginning of the NSDF review in 2016, the CNSC has undertaken many consultation and engagement activities with identified Indigenous Nations and communities. The CNSC will continue to work and build relationships throughout the remainder of the regulatory process for the NSDF.
- Environmental monitoring: The CNSC is directly addressing concerns with respect to the Ottawa River and proposed NDSF. More than 50 specialized scientific and technical experts, including geoscientists and structural engineers – at the CNSC and across government – have carefully reviewed all details of the proposal. This examination includes analyzing proposed protective materials, studying water flows and evaluating structural integrity, in order to ensure the proposed NSDF would meet Canada’s rigorous standards for protecting people and the environment.
Timeline of key milestones
- January 9, 2024: Commission amends CNL’s licence for Chalk River Laboratories to authorize construction of a near surface disposal facility
- August 10, 2023: Commission hears final oral submissions
- June 9, 2023: Notice of Adjournment of Public Hearing
- May 17, 2023: Revised Notice of Public Hearing and Procedural Guidance for Final Submissions– Revision 2
- March 23, 2023: Revised Notice of Public Hearing and Procedural Guidance for Final Submissions
- January 31, 2023: Notice of Public Hearing and Procedural Guidance for Final Submissions
- July 5, 2022: News release: Commission seeks additional information regarding Indigenous consultation, for Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ application to authorize construction of a near surface disposal facility
- May 30 – June 3: 2022: Public Commission hearing – Part 2 of 2
- February 22, 2022: Public Commission hearing – Part 1 of 2
- July 8, 2021: CNSC staff deem all environmental assessment and licensing application documentation acceptable
- July 2, 2021: CNSC completes review of the final EIS
- May 28, 2021: CNL submits final EIS
- April 9, 2020: CNSC review team completes technical review of the revised draft environmental impact statement (EIS)
- March 31, 2017: CNL submits licence application and CNSC review begins
- May 5, 2016: Environmental assessment begins
Roles of the CNSC and the Commission in nuclear licensing
The CNSC’s role is to ensure that the method for waste storage will not pose a risk to the public or the environment.
Before the Commission made its decision to authorize construction of the NSDF, CNSC staff reviewed evidence that demonstrates that NSDF activities will not cause significant adverse environmental effects. The CNSC has made all this information available as Commission member documents.
CNSC staff are responsible for providing ongoing oversight of this project to ensure that CNL meets regulatory and safety requirements as it moves forward with construction of the NSDF. This includes ongoing engagement and consultation with Indigenous Nations and communities, stakeholders and the public to ensure that they are kept informed on a regular basis about all NSDF regulatory matters.
The Commission makes independent, fair and transparent decisions on licensing nuclear-related activities. The Commission members have sole responsibility for rendering decisions, based on all the evidence presented as part of a hearing process.
Highlights – Key facts
- On January 9, 2024 the CNSC announced the Commission’s decision to amend CNL’s nuclear research and test establishment operating licence for Chalk River Laboratories to authorize the construction of an NSDF at its Chalk River Laboratories site. Read the Commission’s Record of Decision.
- The CNSC conducted an environmental and licensing technical assessment of the proposal, which led to the scheduling of a 2-part public hearing.
- The first part of the hearing was held virtually on February 22, 2022. Participants included CNSC staff and CNL, who made presentations on the final environmental assessment report and the licensing application for the proposed project, giving Commission members the first opportunity to ask questions of these parties.
Interventions submitted by the public and by Indigenous Nations and communities were heard at the second part of the NSDF Commission hearing, held from May 30 to June 3, 2022, in Pembroke, Ontario.
- Over $190 thousand in financial assistance was approved for 11 applicants via the Participant Funding Program to assist them in reviewing the environmental assessment and licence application and in participating in the Commission hearing process.
- Following the 2-part hearing, Commission members issued a notice of adjournment. Indigenous Nations and communities who made oral submissions during Part 2 of the public hearing had the option to make final oral submissions to the Commission. The hearing for final oral submissions took place on August 10, 2023.
Commission members study the information and interventions received, along with any additional follow-up information that they have requested, in order to make a licensing decision. CNSC staff recommend to the Commission that it consider a decision in favour of an application only if they are satisfied with the technical basis of the safe operations of the facility and that the public and the environment will remain protected.
A licence is granted only when the Commission has determined it is safe to do so.
Education and engagement
- The CNSC has been engaging with local communities about the NSDF since 2016, through formal comment periods in the Environmental Assessment process, sharing facts on our website, hosting open houses in Deep River, Pembroke and Sheenboro, as well as through a series of 11 online webinars touching on various aspects of the project.
CNSC staff encouraged the public, stakeholders and Indigenous Nations and communities to have their voices heard throughout each stage of this process.
- Written and oral interventions/submissions for this licensing hearing were accepted until April 11, 2022.
- Supplemental information and presentations in support of interventions were accepted until May 24, 2022.
- Our commitment to Indigenous Nations and communities and the public
- Hearing documents: Part 1 / Part 2
- Archived webcasts of public hearings and meetings
- CNSC NSDF web page
- CNSC NSDF webinar series playlist
- Detailed regulatory review status information
- Video explaining the NSDF application and the role that CNSC experts play in its licensing and environmental review
- Participant Funding Program
- Public Commission hearings
- CNL NSDF web page
- Licensing and regulatory process
- News release: Commission amends CNL’s licence for Chalk River Laboratories to authorize the construction of an NSDF
- Backgrounder: Nuclear safety in Canada – Decision by the independent Commission on the near surface disposal facility project
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
- Date modified: