Atomic Energy of Canada Limited

Environmental
Stewardship

Repatriation of
Highly-Enriched Uranium

Highly-Enriched uranium (HEU) originating from the United States was used at the Chalk River site as reactor fuel and in the production of medical isotopes. This material requires high levels of security as well as costly and complicated storage.

As part of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, an initiative which aims at reducing nuclear weapons proliferation risks by consolidating HEU inventories in fewer locations around the world, this material is being returned to the United States for conversion and reuse in conventional nuclear power reactors (i.e. to generate electricity).

Under the initiative, existing weapons-grade material is removed from Canada and transferred to the United States, which has the capability to reprocess it for peaceful purposes, eliminating the need for storing this material.

The repatriation of HEU provides a safe, secure, timely and permanent solution to Canada’s long term management of this material.

As part of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ (CNL’s) contract with AECL to manage and operate our sites, CNL is responsible for the packaging and transportation of AECL’s inventory of highly-enriched uranium to the United States.

Repatriation provides the safest, most secure, and fastest solution for the permanent disposition of these materials, thereby eliminating a liability for future generations of Canadians.

FAQs

How can you ensure the material be transported safely?

The HEU is transported in engineered casks that are specifically designed to contain contents under normal and abnormal situations. The casks undergo stringent testing, which simulate both normal and hypothetical accident conditions of transport, including free-drop, puncture and thermal testing.

The casks are certified and transportation is licensed by both Canadian and American nuclear regulatory bodies. This is undertaken in accordance with international safety requirements established by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission , Canada’s independent nuclear regulator, does not allow the shipment of any nuclear materials unless it is convinced the safety of Canadians will be protected.

Stringent security plans are in place for each shipment to avoid any risk of the material falling into the hands of unauthorized persons or organizations. Information on specific shipment details is withheld for safety and security considerations.

The transportation routes and security measures put in place are pre-approved and agreed by authorities in both Canada and the US Canada has an excellent safety record for the transport of nuclear substances.