Atomic Energy of Canada Limited

Environmental
Stewardship

Chalk River Laboratories

The Chalk River Laboratories are Canada’s largest science and technology complex.

For more than 60 years, nuclear science and technology activities at the site have led to the production of radioactive and other hazardous wastes. Such wastes have been carefully managed at dedicated areas, otherwise known as waste management areas. While the majority of the Chalk River site remains undisturbed, certain areas, including the waste management areas have been contaminated to varying degrees. As there remains a significant amount of buried waste, soil contamination and groundwater contamination, remedial actions are required to reduce risks to the environment.

Responsible decommissioning and radioactive waste management is necessary in order to clean up the Chalk River site, protect the environment, and make way for new buildings that will support the ongoing nuclear science and technology mission at the Chalk River Laboratories.

A key project that will enable the clean-up of contaminated buildings and lands at the Chalk River Laboratories is the proposal by CNL to build a near surface disposal facility. This facility would enable the remediation of contaminated areas, moving low-level radioactive waste from temporary storage areas and existing areas of contaminated soil to a state-of-the-art engineered facility that will contain the waste and contamination long enough for it to naturally decay. More information on this project is available on the Near Surface Disposal Facility page.

Other decommissioning and waste management activities at the Chalk River site that are ongoing include:

Facility decommissioning – includes careful decontamination (including of asbestos and radioactive materials) and demolition of old and outdated buildings.

Environmental restoration – includes targeted remedial actions to improve environmental conditions and provide the necessary protection of the environment. Examples of these activities include operating water treatment facilities to protect surface and groundwater contamination in areas where the soil has been contaminated, as well as ongoing monitoring activities to ensure that contamination is contained. Further large-scale remediation of contaminated lands and soils is required to further protect the environment, but this can only be achieved if the contaminated material has a place to go – this is where the Near Surface Disposal Facility comes in. For more information on this project, please visit the Near Surface Disposal Facility page.

Management of used fuel and repatriation of highly-enriched uranium – Used fuel and highly-enriched uranium was used at the Chalk River site to operate the research reactors and to produce medical isotopes. Used fuel is being carefully managed to ensure that it is stored in appropriate facilities until a permanent solution currently being developed by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, is available. Highly-enriched uranium is being repatriated (returned) to the United States, where it originated. More information on this project is available on the Repatriation of Highly-enriched Uranium page.