Media Kit: Near Surface Disposal Facility

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About the proposed project

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is seeking a licence to construct an engineered facility, called a Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF), dispose of low-level radioactive waste at the Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) site in Deep River, Ontario. Low-level radioactive waste includes contaminated building materials, soils, and operational equipment (for example, protective shoe covers, clothing, rags, mops, equipment and tools).

The proposed NSDF would be a mound, built at near-surface level, consisting of multiple disposal cells made of systems that cover the base and top of each cell, collect leachate and detect leaks, and monitor the surrounding environment. The final cover would be installed on each cell once the cell is full. The total capacity of phase 1 (cells 1 to 6) is 525,000 m3 and phase 2 (cells 7 to 10) is 475,000 m3 for a total NSDF capacity of 1 million m3. The NSDF would have an expected operating life of at least 50 years.

The project would also include:

  • a wastewater treatment plant
  • supporting infrastructure, such as:
    • security systems to monitor access and egress
    • a truck wheel wash, vehicle monitoring and weighing stations
    • workstations and change facilities, construction trailers, and marine containers or tents for storage of construction materials

Licensing and regulatory process

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has conducted an environmental and licensing technical assessment of this proposal. Comments and questions have been received throughout the environmental assessment process, from Indigenous Nations and communities, environmental and other special interest groups, and members of the public.

CNSC staff have completed an exhaustive and rigorous assessment of the application against all regulatory requirements, which included:

  • Environmental assessment legislation: CNL must demonstrate that the proposed NSDF would be safe for the environment and the public – both now and during its entire lifecycle. The NSDF cannot proceed unless the Commission is satisfied activities can be carried out safely.
  • Public engagement: Public engagement allows the CNSC to obtain valuable information and to hear concerns and address questions about proposed projects – leading to a better, more informed review.
  • Licensing, Commission hearings and compliance: The CNSC’s subject matter experts review applications for licences according to regulatory requirements and enforce compliance with the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. With this technical expertise, the CNSC makes recommendations to the independent Commission.
  • Indigenous consultation: Since the beginning of the NSDF review in 2016, the CNSC has undertaken many consultation and engagement activities with identified Indigenous Nations and communities. The CNSC will continue to work and build relationships throughout the remainder of the regulatory process for the NSDF.
  • Environmental monitoring: The CNSC is directly addressing concerns with respect to the Ottawa River and proposed NDSF. More than 50 specialized scientific and technical experts, including geoscientists and structural engineers – at the CNSC and across government – have carefully reviewed all details of the proposal. This examination includes analyzing proposed protective materials, studying water flows and evaluating structural integrity, in order to ensure the proposed NSDF would meet Canada’s rigorous standards for protecting people and the environment.

Timeline of key milestones

  • May 5, 2016: The environmental assessment begins.
  • March 31, 2017: CNL submits the licence application and CNSC’s review begins.
  • April 9, 2020: CNSC review team completes technical review of the revised draft environmental impact statement (EIS).
  • May 28, 2021: CNL submits final EIS.
  • July 2, 2021: CNSC completes review of the final EIS.
  • July 8, 2021: CNSC staff deem all environmental assessment and licensing application documentation acceptable.
  • Current (February to May 2022):
    • Part 1 of a 2-part hearing is held on February 22, 2022, during which, the Commission will consider CNL’s application to amend its Chalk River Laboratories site licence to authorize the construction of a NSDF.
    • Part 2 of the hearing is held beginning May 31, 2022. This part of the hearing will hear interventions from the public, stakeholders, and Indigenous Nations and communities.
  • Fall 2022 (exact timeline TBD): Commission decision to be shared publicly.

Roles of the CNSC and the Commission in nuclear licensing


The CNSC’s role is to ensure that the proposed method for waste storage would not pose a risk to the public or the environment. The CNSC will review and assess CNL’s proposal thoroughly and will only allow the project to proceed if it is convinced it is safe for the public and the environment.

CNSC staff must review enough evidence that demonstrates the proposed NSDF activities would not cause significant adverse environmental effects before the Commission can proceed with its decision. The CNSC will make this information available as Commission member documents before Part 1 of the 2-part public hearing.


The Commission makes independent, fair and transparent decisions on licensing nuclear-related activities. It is only the Commission members who render decisions based on all the evidence presented in the context of a hearing process.

Highlights – Key facts


  • Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is seeking a licence to construct a Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) to dispose of low-level radioactive waste, at the Chalk River Laboratories site in Deep River, Ontario.


  • The CNSC has conducted an environmental and licensing technical assessment of this proposal, which led to the scheduling of an upcoming 2-part public hearing.
  • The first part of the hearing will take place on February 22, 2022, virtually. Participants will include CNSC staff as well as CNL who will make presentations about the final environmental assessment report and the licensing application for this proposed project, giving Commission members the first opportunity to ask questions of these parties.
  • Submitted interventions from the public and Indigenous Nations and communities will be heard at the second part of the NSDF Commission hearing which will begin on May 31, 2022.
    • Over $190K of financial assistance was approved for 11 applicants via the Participant Funding Program, which assists Indigenous Nations and communities, members of the public and stakeholders with the review of the environmental assessment and licence application and with their participation in the Commission hearing process.
  • Following the 2-part hearing, Commission members will study the information received, interventions and any additional follow-up they’ve asked for, with a view to making a licensing decision. CNSC staff will only recommend to the Commission that it consider a decision in favour of an application if they are satisfied with the technical basis of the safe operations of the facility, and that the public and environment will remain protected. A licence will only be granted if the Commission has determined it is safe to do so.

Education and engagement

  • The CNSC has been engaging with local communities about the NSDF since 2016, through formal comment periods in the Environmental Assessment process, sharing facts on our website, hosting open houses in Deep River, Pembroke and Sheenboro, as well as through a series of 11 online webinars touching on various aspects of the project.
  • CNSC staff continue to encourage the public, stakeholders and Indigenous Nations and communities to have their voices heard throughout each stage of this process. The next opportunity to do so is by submitting an intervention for the public Commission hearing which will begin on May 31, 2022.
    • Written and oral interventions/submissions for this licensing hearing are due April 11, 2022.
    • Supplemental information and presentations in support of interventions are due May 24, 2022.
An overview of the different types of public outreach CNSC has done since 2016. Text version below.
Text version

CNSC’s public outreach and engagement (since 2016)

  • Participant funding: $794,782.15
  • Mail drops: sent to 50,000+
  • Public interactions: >40
  • Webinars: 11
  • Information sessions, open houses, meetings: >20
  • Project bulletins: 4

Additional resources

Media contact

Kim Cunningham
Media Relations
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

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