Nuclear generating stations produce different types of solid radioactive waste that are distinguished primarily by their level of radioactivity. Low- and medium-level waste is stored at the generating station site in the radioactive waste storage area, and, since 2009, in the new solid radioactive waste management facility. Irradiated fuel is stored in the dry storage area. Proper waste management is an essential part of operating a nuclear power plant. Strict radiation protection procedures are used to ensure the safety of employees, the public and the environment.
The operation of radioactive waste storage facilities at Gentilly-2 generating station is also subject to the conditions of a licence that is strictly monitored by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
The radioactive waste storage area (RWSA) was the first on-site storage area for solid radioactive waste. Though it has been used less frequently in recent years, this storage area remains available to store certain types of intermediate-level radioactive waste. It continues to be environmentally monitored, in compliance with operating conditions.
Low- and medium-level radioactive waste is now stored in the solid radioactive waste management facility (SRWMF). This new solid radioactive waste storage facility was built in two separate phases and has several aboveground storage modules.
As part of the on-going activities at Gentilly-2, Hydro-Québec continues its efforts to reduce the volume of solid radioactive waste produced at the source. Equipment is also used to compact the radioactive waste generated before it is transferred to the storage modules. A major part of the environmental monitoring is dedicated to this new facility.
The irradiated nuclear fuel removed from the Gentilly-2 reactor core in 2013 will remain in a spent fuel pool for about seven years. It will then be transferred to CANSTOR dry storage modules, all of them located within the nuclear plant's security perimeter.
At the end of 2015, the nine CANSTOR modules in operation at the Gentilly-2 plant contained a little over 100,000 bundles of irradiated nuclear fuel. Two new CANSTOR modules will soon be built for dry storage of the remaining 30,000 fuel bundles in the spent fuel pool. The environmental monitoring covers this facility as well.
Hydro-Québec is a member of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), which was established in 2002 under the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act. Its mandate is to develop and implement a management approach for the long-term care of Canada’s used nuclear fuel that is socially acceptable, technically sound, environmentally responsible and economically feasible.
In 2007, the Minister of Natural Resources of Canada approved the NWMO recommendation for Adaptive Phased Management (APM), which is both a technical method and a management system that can be adapted to changing technology and science and to evolving public policy. Its ultimate technical objective is the containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel in a deep geological repository.
In 2009, the NWMO launched a public consultation program that invited Canadians to share their opinions about the APM site selection process. The NWMO held consultations in Trois-Rivières, Montréal and Québec in summer 2009. After a two-year consultation of Canadian citizens, the site selection process was launched in 2010. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is now conducting preliminary assessments of the fitness of each of the nine different sites still under study.
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