When people hear about nuclear waste, they usually think about spent fuel – the uranium that has powered nuclear reactors. Spent fuel is highly radioactive, but it makes up only three percent of the volume of nuclear waste worldwide. The remaining 97 percent is much less radioactive. Even so, all waste needs to be treated with care.
There are three main types of nuclear waste:
Canada’s nuclear energy facilities store different types of waste in different ways, depending on how hazardous they are:
Storage for the future
Storing waste on-site, above ground is safe, but requires ongoing monitoring and security. An alternative way to keep nuclear waste safe is to bury it deep in the ground, in dry rock that is safe from earthquakes.
A federal government panel has recommended that the government approve a plan to bury low- and intermediate-level waste at a site near Kincardine, Ontario. As well, the government has approved a nuclear industry plan to find a site to store spent fuel. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is reviewing sites that have both the right geology and a willing host community.