Survey shows public priorities align with NWMO’s transportation planning framework

A recent survey shows that the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s (NWMO) transportation planning priorities align closely with what Canadians and Indigenous peoples consider important.

A key finding indicated that 91 per cent of all respondents agree that safety is the top requirement when it comes to transporting used nuclear fuel. Results from this survey, which launched in 2020 as part of the organization’s draft transportation planning framework, will help guide and shape future plans for the NWMO’s transportation program.

The NWMO’s transportation principles and objectives, including ensuring transparency and responsible project management, also align with public priorities according to survey results. There is still more work to be done on how to address these priorities in a meaningful way, but the NWMO is building a solid planning foundation through ongoing dialogue with Canadians and Indigenous peoples.

“The goal of the draft transportation planning framework was to outline what we understood Canadians and Indigenous peoples wanted considered in terms of planning objectives, issues and concerns regarding the transportation of Canada’s used nuclear fuel,” said Bob Watts, Vice-President of Indigenous Relations and Strategic Programs at the NWMO.

“The input we received from First Nation and Métis peoples, municipalities and organizations builds on a wealth of shared knowledge. We want to establish a collaborative approach to developing a safe and socially acceptable framework for future transportation planning. We know this will take time and work over the upcoming years, and the NWMO is committed to that work.”

Transportation of used nuclear fuel from interim storage facilities to a deep geological repository is part of Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel. The transportation program is set to begin in the 2040s, once the deep geological repository is operational. Having confidence that a safe and socially acceptable transportation plan can be developed is a key part in selecting a single, preferred site for a deep geological repository.

There is also a strong international track record for transporting used nuclear fuel. In over 50 years, there have been more than 20,000 shipments worldwide of used nuclear fuel, and none have caused harm to people or the environment as a result of the release of radioactive materials. This is because of strong regulatory requirements that must be met before transportation begins.

In addition to highlighting a shared vision for transportation planning, the survey identified key topics where respondents shared concerns and questions regarding this portion of Canada’s plan. They included:

  • Emergency and security management;
  • Accident scenarios; and
  • Infrastructure conditions.

“As transportation planning continues, the NWMO will develop a multi-year work program on how to safely transport used nuclear fuel. This work will address regulatory requirements, and the questions and concerns we hear from the public on this topic,” said Caitlin Burley, Transportation Engagement Manager. “We want to work towards understanding these concerns and addressing them as we refine our transportation program over the 20-year planning time frame.”

A summary of the results from engagement on the draft transportation planning framework can be read in the What we heard report. Public input received on the draft transportation planning framework will be incorporated into a revised framework that will be released later this year.

Based on feedback received, the NWMO will also release our initial transportation plan that outlines the organization’s conceptual transportation program in the coming months.

About the NWMO

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is a not-for-profit organization tasked with the safe, long-term storage of Canada’s used nuclear fuel in a manner that protects people and the environment for generations to come.

We are implementing Canada’s plan to safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel inside a deep geological repository. The plan is based on years of public input, Indigenous Knowledge, international scientific consensus, and best practices from around the world.

Canada’s plan will only proceed in an area with informed and willing hosts, where the municipality, First Nation and Métis communities, and others in the area are working together to implement it. The NWMO plans to select a site in 2023, and two areas remain in our site selection process: the Ignace area and South Bruce, both in Ontario.

Transparent and accountable, the NWMO works in close co-operation with communities, all levels of government, national and international regulators, Indigenous peoples, industry, academia, and civil society organizations.