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Statement from the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources on the Integrated Strategy for Radioactive Waste

I would like to thank the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) for its work developing the Integrated Strategy for Radioactive Waste (the Strategy). This Strategy is an important element of ensuring Canada has continually effective and world-leading disposal and management plans for radioactive waste of all levels.

As Canada’s nuclear industry continues to help power Canada in a net-zero world, it is vital that governments, industry and communities work together to advance priorities related to this economic activity — including reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples — building in a manner that delivers reliable and affordable clean energy to all Canadians.

As part of realizing this goal, Canada must continue to lead the way in radioactive waste management. While radioactive waste considerations are important, they pale in comparison to the pollution produced by unabated high-carbon power production. The existential threat posed by climate change requires that we be open to all non-emitting options.

The Integrated Strategy for Radioactive Waste builds on the Government of Canada’s unwavering commitment to protecting the health and safety of people and the environment when it comes to radioactive waste. I am pleased to see that this Strategy contributes to this high standard.

As outlined in Canada’s Policy for Radioactive Waste Management and Decommissioning (the Policy), waste owners and generators are responsible for the management of radioactive waste and for the safety of the environment and human health. This responsibility includes funding and developing plans for the disposal of radioactive waste. The Strategy provides the necessary direction for waste owners to continue meeting those obligations. It outlines an integrated, national plan for the long-term management of Canada’s low-level, intermediate-level and non-fuel high-level radioactive waste and complements existing efforts for the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste, or high-level radioactive waste.

The Strategy also reflects international best practices and is informed by more than two years of extensive engagement with Indigenous Peoples and Canadians across the country. It lays out two fundamental recommendations:

  1. Intermediate-level waste and non-fuel high-level waste will be disposed of in a deep geological repository with implementation by the NWMO.
  2. Low-level waste will be disposed of in multiple near-surface disposal facilities with implementation by waste generators and waste owners.

I commend waste owners for their leadership and support of the recommendations in this Strategy. As waste generators and owners develop plans for the disposal of radioactive waste, they must both implement and maintain the Strategy as well as fulfil the responsibilities described in the Policy — with oversight from the federal government. This includes ensuring the protection of people and the environment and also early and ongoing engagement regarding specific disposal projects, particularly with Indigenous Peoples and host communities.

The Strategy also anticipates new and emerging technologies, such as small modular reactors, and will be regularly updated to reflect progress in the planning and implementation of advancements in nuclear science and technology.

In keeping with the Policy, I expect that waste owners will work together to update the Strategy, in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, community partners and other involved parties, and submit their recommendations for review and consideration in 2028. I also expect that waste owners will meet with Natural Resources Canada officials on an annual basis to report on their progress in implementing the Strategy, including outlining a plan for their continued collaboration.

Additionally, I look forward to hearing back from the NWMO in 12 to 18 months regarding a consent-based site-selection process for a potential deep geological repository for intermediate-level waste and non-fuel high-level radioactive waste. In undertaking this new mandate, the NWMO’s ongoing efforts under the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act to implement Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of Canada’s nuclear fuel waste will continue to be a core priority.

As the world rapidly advances to combat climate change and unlock the economic opportunities associated with the shift toward a low-carbon future, the Government of Canada is committed to working with provinces, territories and Indigenous partners to continue supporting the deployment of the next generation of clean technologies — while keeping Canadians and the environment safe and powering our growing clean economy for generations to come.

With this clear and sound strategy, Canada is taking its responsibility seriously to ensure Canada remains a world leader in a key area of environmental and health protection. I commend the NWMO for its work thus far and look forward to the implementation of the Strategy by waste owners, on the path toward the next release in 2028.

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Energy and Natural Resources

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