Nuclear Waste Management


Nuclear Waste Management e-Dialogue series

 Welcome to this series of on-line dialogue on a critical public policy issue of the management of used nuclear fuel in Canada, led on behalf of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) led by Dr. Ann Dale and her research team.

The first e-Dialogue is on the concept of risk and uncertainty around the management of nuclear waste. The second e-Dialogue is a series of e-round tables designed to get input from younger people, including M.A. and Ph.D candidates on the management of used nuclear waste. Organized into four on-line e-round tables tables, they will be asked to apply the decision making framework developed by NWMO to the three options under consideration by the NWMO (storage at reactor sites; centralized storage and deep geological storage). A third e-Dialogue on decision-making under conditions of risk and uncertainty will be held including experts from the first dialogue, and in addition, Dr. Jim MacNeill, former Secretary-General to the Brundtland Commission and Chris Henderson, CEO of The Delphi Group.

We are committed to enlarging the public space for on-line real-time dialogue into key public policy issues facing Canada, no matter how conflictual or value-laden, for:

"The future of any civil society is grounded in a continuning conversation about the values and conditions that underwrite participation in that society. Our current practice as a society is to insist that questions of life and death, of purpose and meaning, of vocation, values and community must be decided without reference to the very terms in which those questions are grounded."

(Peaves, Globe and Mail, March 16, 2002)


As part of the ongoing evolution of both the infrastructure and the role of nuclear power in Canada the Canadian Government is in the process of implementing a plan, or approach, for the management of used nuclear fuel. This plan, Adaptive Phased Management (APM), is the responsibility of, and being implemented by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO). At this point, the NWMO is seeking public input on its proposed implementation, entitled, Implementing Adaptive Phased Management 2008 to 2012

Royal Roads University’s Canada Research Chair, Dr. Ann Dale, has been asked by NWMO to lead an asynchronous e-forum inviting Canadians to review and comment on the draft implementation plan. Dr. Dale has agreed to lead this on-line conversation as part of her commitment to exploring the capacity of on-line dialogue to increase literacy on critical public policy issues in Canada and to reveal points of consensus and dissention for decision-makers. Our research is independent and wherever possible free of bias; as well we do not accept any funding that does not allow for simultaneous publication of any material to both the funder and the public.

Since we are not technical experts in this area, we have asked NWMO if their technical experts will participate in the e-Forum by answering any technical questions raised by members of the public. NWMO scientists will be asked by the moderator to respond when technical questions or issues are raised. The research team who will be actively moderating the discussion consists of Drs. Ann Dale, Lenore Newman and Chris Ling.

This e-forum will be structured around the seven key strategic objectives contained in the draft plan. The plan may be read in its entirety here as well as their draft transparency policy. The e-Forum will be asynchronous, not real-time, and we encourage you to read our background material on the website, access our archives from previous e-Dialogues. To help you in your thinking, we will be posting strategic questions in each section of the seven objectives in our welcome.

The forum opens on April 28, 2008 and closes on June 30, 2008.

We encourage you to make a difference, share your experience and ideas on this critical issue of interest to all Canadians. Please register and read our rules of conduct, listen respectfully and share your views with your community and advice on the draft implementation plan.



In June 2007, the Nuclear Waste Management Organisation (NWMO) was given responsibility by the Government of Canada, consistent with the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (2002), for implementing Adaptive Phased Management (APM), Canada’s long-term plan for used nuclear fuel. NWMO in consultations with the public, made a recommendation to the Federal Government on a preferred approach for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel, which the Government accepted. As described by the NWMO, Adaptive Phased Management is both a technical method and a management system, with an emphasis on adaptability.

For the purposes of our research, a good explanation of adaptive management is that provided by the Resilience Alliance; they state that “Adaptive management identifies uncertainties, and then establishes methodologies to test hypotheses concerning those uncertainties. It uses management as a tool not only to change the system, but as a tool to learn about the system. It is concerned with the need to learn and the cost of ignorance, while traditional management is focused on the need to preserve and the cost of knowledge.” Given the ecological and social complexities of used nuclear fuel management, we believe this flexibility will be critical.

Technically, NWMO has agreed on an end point of centralized containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel in a deep geological repository as the preferred option for the management of used nuclear fuel; however this end point will be approached through a flexible process which will guide the pace and manner of implementation and will be supported by a program of continuous learning, research and development. The proposed management system involves phases – each marked by explicit decision points with continuing participation by interested Canadians. The implementation plan also provides an option for shallow underground storage at the central site if some or all of the used fuel needs to be moved before the deep repository is available.  The plan also provides for a continuous process of monitoring and data collection and assessment of the safety and performance of a repository and retrieval over an extended period. In addition, the Implementation Plan will be reviewed and updated annually to offer guidance for the five-year planning period ahead.

To guide the planning process, the NWMO Board has identified seven strategic planning objectives. The Implementation Plan describes initiatives that they intend to undertake in each of these seven areas over the period 2008 to 2012. It was developed with guidance from interested Canadians and is in draft for the purpose of seeking additional input from Canadians.

The e-Forum is divided into eight threads: a section for general comments, and seven threads that reflect the strategic objectives. Comments and concerns related to the ability of the implementation plan to achieve a specific strategic objective should be directed to the corresponding thread. Please post comments on as many of the objectives as you wish. Detailed and specific comments will have a much greater impact and a stronger influence on the discussion – and are more likely to generate concrete outcomes and conclusions to the discussion process.