Decommissioning and Waste Management

AECL has been conducting nuclear science and technology activities for decades. While these activities have had important benefits for Canada and Canadians – for example the production of medical isotopes used in the detection and treatment of cancer – they also produced radioactive waste.

AECL manages various types of radioactive waste at its sites, including high-level waste (used fuel), intermediate-level waste and low-level waste.

Several sites and/or buildings have also been contaminated as a result of nuclear science and technology activities; these now need to be decontaminated and demolished, and the radioactive waste disposed of or managed properly and safely.

AECL has to remediate sites (principally at the Chalk River Laboratories) which have been contaminated as a result of past radioactive waste management practices which are no longer considered acceptable based on today’s stringent standards. 

AECL is also responsible for fulfilling Canada’s responsibilities with respect to historic low-level waste at sites where the original owner no longer exists or another party cannot be held liable and for which the Government has accepted responsibility. This includes the clean-up and safe long-term management of historic, low-level radioactive waste in the municipalities of Port Hope and Clarington, in Ontario pursuant to an agreement with the municipalities. 

Current initiatives to address AECL’s radioactive waste and environmental responsibilities and led by CNL include:

  • Near Surface Disposal Facility at the Chalk River Laboratories, in Ontario
    • This facility is being proposed to clean up AECL's sites and protect the environment. It would contain low-level radioactive waste that is currently temporarily stored at our sites and contaminated soil and building materials. The objective is to contain radioactive materials, making the site safer and further protecting the environment from existing contamination. You can learn more about the Near Surface Disposal Facility proposal on by reading the Near Surface Disposal Facility page and by visiting CNL's website.
  • Closure of the Nuclear Power Demonstration reactor, in Ontario
    • CNL has made an application to initiate the regulatory approvals process, including a federal environmental assessment, for a proposal to decommission the Nuclear Power Demonstration reactor in situ. For more information on this initiative, please visit CNL's website.
  • Closure of the Whiteshell Laboratories site, in Manitoba
    • Decommissioning of the Whiteshell Laboratories has been underway 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 Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Since that time, redundant buildings have been demolished, and new enabling facilities for waste handling have been planned and constructed.
    • As part of its work to manage Canada’s decommissioning and waste management responsibilities on behalf of AECL, CNL is proposing to decommission and leave in-situ the research reactor (WR-1), which is located at the Whiteshell site. CNL has made an application to initiate the regulatory approvals process, including a federal environmental assessment, for this proposal. For more information on this initiative, please visit CNL's website.
  • Port Hope Area Initiative
    • AECL is responsible for delivering on Canada’s commitment for the cleanup and local, long-term, safe management of historic low-level radioactive waste in Port Hope and Clarington, in Ontario. The objective of the Port Hope Area Initiative is to cleanup and safely manage approximately 1.7 million cubic metres of historic low-level radioactive waste within the municipalities. The waste is the result of radium and uranium processing in Port Hope between 1933 and 1988 by the former Crown corporation Eldorado Nuclear Limited and its private-sector predecessors.
    • The PHAI is being carried out as two projects - the Port Hope Project and the Port Granby Project. For more information on this initiative, please visit the Port Hope Area Initiative's website.
  • Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Office
    • AECL is responsible for delivering on Canada’s responsibilities for the management of historic low-level radioactive waste in Canada. This work is carried out by the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Office (operated by CNL).
    • The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Office manages historic low-level radioactive waste at numerous waste sites located throughout Canada and has successfully completed projects in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories. The Office responds to questions from the public, conducts consultation and stakeholder engagement activities and establishes partnerships to resolve historic low-level radioactive waste issues within local communities. For more information on this initiative, please visit CNL's website.