Public hearing for Whiteshell licence renewal

19 February 2019

The Canadian nuclear regulator has scheduled a public hearing in early October to consider an application from Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) to renew its decommissioning licence for the Whiteshell Laboratories site for a further ten years.

The Whiteshell Laboratories site (Image: Canadian Nuclear Association)

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited established the Whiteshell Laboratories complex near Pinawa, Manitoba, for nuclear research during the early 1960s. A major focus of the programme at Whiteshell was the Whiteshell Reactor 1 (WR-1) organically cooled research reactor, which was shut down in 1985. The reactor is partially decommissioned and in safe storage awaiting final decommissioning. The facilities are currently being decommissioned by CNL.

The current Nuclear Research Test Establishment Decommissioning Licence, which expires at the end of 2019, authorises CNL to conduct decommissioning activities at the Whiteshell Laboratories site facilities, including WR-1, waste management areas, storage facilities and other nuclear and non-nuclear buildings.

CNL applied to the CNSC on 13 March last year for a ten-year renewal of that licence. The proposed licence renewal would allow CNL to continue conducting previously-approved decommissioning activities at the site.

CNSC will hold a public meeting on 2-3 October to consider CNL's application.

The commission noted that CNL has indicated its preferred decommissioning approach for the WR-1 reactor is in-situ disposal, a proposal for which an environmental assessment is currently under way. The CNSC said a decision regarding the environmental assessment and the proposal for in-situ decommissioning of WR-1 will be considered at a separate future public hearing.

CNSC said it is making available CAD50,000 (USD37,735) through its Participation Funding programme to assist indigenous peoples, members of the public and stakeholders in the review of CNL's licence renewal application and the commission hearing process. The deadline for submitting a participation funding application is 10 May.

Decommissioning of the Whiteshell Laboratories has been under way for more than a decade. In 2003, the site received approval of an overall decommissioning framework, through the completion of an environmental assessment and the subsequent issuing of a site decommissioning licence by the CNSC. Since that time, redundant buildings have been demolished, and new enabling facilities for waste handling have been planned and constructed. CNL plans to complete decommissioning of the entire site by 2024.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News