Uranium in Canada - The Processing and Storage of Nuclear...

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The Processing and Storage of Nuclear Materials in Saskatchewan By M. Tyler Gould 10142325 Comm 306 (08) Professor Goodfellow 6 March 2007
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THE ISSUE In 1944, shortly after Canada's preliminary involvement with the Manhattan project, the federal government nationalized Eldorado Mining and Refining Ltd. and created the Atomic Energy Control Board (now known as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) and set the path for not only uranium extraction but nuclear energy in Canada (1). The next major step, the formation of the crown corporation Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. (AECL) as a national entity specializing in non-weapon use of nuclear power, took place in 1952, followed 10 years later by Canada's first CANDU nuclear reactor operated by Ontario Hydro (now all nuclear reactors in Ontario are operated by Ontario Power generation). Since this first reactor opened, Canada has expanded its nuclear energy usage and currently utilizes approximately 86 Terra-Watt Hours - roughly equal to %15 of the energy consumed annually (2). Though the development of nuclear power in Canada has been stagnant for the past couple decades - and even recently following the 2003 eastern seaboard blackout caused by the Darlington and Pickering sites - international pressure to reduce green house gases and increased energy demands have brought nuclear energy back to the forefront. David Torgerson, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of AECL, said of nuclear energy in Canada, "[governments] have realized that there is really no other option for large-scale energy production that can meet their requirements," (3). Over the past half century or so, the nuclear energy industry in Canada has been accumulating high-level nuclear waste (primarily spent nuclear fuel rods) with no long-term storage methods or policies. The current policy dictates that high level nuclear waste (which can remain dangerously radioactive for tens of thousands of years) be temporarily stored on site in either dry storage (steel-cement containers) or in wet storage (water pools) until a suitable long-term storage policy can be worked out. The same government policy, the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act , requires the owners of spent nuclear fuel to engage stakeholders regarding a long-term storage solution. Thus the Nuclear Waste Management Organization was created to meet this requirement. The NWMO's 2005 annual report states that current temporary storage methods are not sufficient for long- term storage but will not be abandoned for approximately 30 years, if the federal government takes a plan of action similar to that recommended by the NWMO (4). Whether or not Canada increases its reliance on nuclear energy - as predicted by Torgerson of the AECL - or succumbs to opponent organizations such as Energy Probe, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, or one of the many aboriginal advocate groups and discontinues its development altogether, there still remains nearly 40 years of radioactive nuclear waste that needs to be properly controlled and stored in the long-term.
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