Almost a year after having received the federal government's rubber stamp for their "Adaptive Phased Management" approach to the long term management of nuclear fuel waste, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization has surfaced again, this time with the first of its "implementation" efforts. But like a groundhog on a cold day, the NWMO poked its head up only long enough to extend and then cancel invitations to a series of national "dialogues" in which they had intended to "seek input and discussion on its plans for early implementation activities".
In mid-January the NWMO issued an invitation to a number of organizations - including Northwatch - to participate in a two day session looking at the early stages of implementing the NWMO's approach to site and then construct an underground repository for nuclear fuel waste. The sessions were canceled two weeks later when, according to the NWMO "our communications with invitees showed that a limited number were available to participate at this time in a multi-interest session".
The NWMO's "Adaptive Phase Management" approach is the nuclear industry's response to federal legislation which directed the industry to establish the Nuclear Waste Management Organization and to spend three years examining three different options for the long term management of nuclear fuel waste, including leaving the waste at the reactor site, moving it to a centralized storage facility, or creating an underground repository.
In June 2007 federal Minister of Natural Resources Gary Lunn announced their approval of the NWMO approach, saying that the approval of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization's proposal to bury nuclear fuel waste was "vital to the future of nuclear energy in Canada."
The idea of burying nuclear waste has been around for decades, but the Canadian "concept" has never been demonstrated to be safe or acceptable. A ten year federal environmental assessment concluded that further research should be done by an agency independent of the nuclear industry. In response to that report, the federal government created the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, comprised of nuclear industries from the provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec.
Northern Ontario was previously identified by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited as a preferred location for an underground repository for nuclear waste. The NWMO has broadened its search criteria, and considers any rock formation - not just the Canadian Shield - to be a possible location for an underground nuclear waste dump.
The NMWO has posted a "concept" paper "Preparing for Implementation" on its web site at www.nwmo.org, and has indicated that it will be releasing a draft of its five year implementation plan in mid-April, with an unspecified comment period. NWMO Board approval is expected in mid-June.
Prior to another round of planned "multi-party
dialogues" in the fall of 2008, the NWMO intends to release a discussion
paper outlining its proposed approach to selecting a site for the underground
nuclear waste repository.
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