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Lessons Learned in Planning the Canadian Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program

[+] Author Affiliations
Michael E. Stephens, Sheila M. Brooks, Joan M. Miller, Robert A. Mason

AECL - Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Chalk River, ON, Canada

Paper No. ICEM2010-40270, pp. 531-540; 10 pages
  • ASME 2010 13th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management
  • ASME 2010 13th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management, Volume 1
  • Tsukuba, Japan, October 3–7, 2010
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Engineering Division and Environmental Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5452-5 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3888-4
  • Copyright © 2010 by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited


In 2006, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) began implementing a $7B CDN, 70-year Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program (NLLP) to deal with legacy decommissioning and environmental issues at AECL nuclear sites. The objective of the NLLP is to safely and cost-effectively reduce the nuclear legacy liabilities and associated risks based on sound waste management and environmental principles in the best interest of Canadians. The liabilities include shutdown research and prototype power reactors, fuel handling facilities, radiochemical laboratories, support buildings, radioactive waste storage facilities, and contaminated lands at several sites located across eastern Canada from Quebec to Manitoba. The largest site, Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) in Ontario, will continue as an operational nuclear site for the foreseeable future. Planning and delivery of the Program is managed by the Liability Management Unit (LMU), a group that was formed within AECL for the purpose. The composition and progress of the NLLP has been reported in recent conferences [1, 2]. The NLLP comprises a number of interlinked decommissioning, waste management and environmental restoration activities that are being executed at different sites, and by various technical groups as suppliers to the LMU. Many lessons about planning and executing such a large, diverse Program have been learned in planning the initial five-year “start-up” phase (which will conclude 2011 March), in planning the five-year second phase (which is currently being finalized), and in planning individual and interacting activities within the Program. The activities to be undertaken in the start-up phase were planned by a small group of AECL technical experts using the currently available information on the liabilities. Progress in executing the Program was slower than anticipated due to less than ideal alignment between some planned technical solutions and the actual requirements, as well as the limited available resources of the suppliers to execute the work. Several internal and external reviews of the Program during the start-up phase examined progress and identified several improvements to planning. These improvements included strengthening communications among the groups within the Program, conducting more detailed advance planning of the interlinked activities, and being cautious about making detailed commitments for activities for which major decisions had yet to be made. The second phase was planned using a dedicated core team, and involved much more involvement of the suppliers to ensure feasibility of the proposed program of work and more detailed specification of the required resources. Priorities for executing the diverse activities in the Program were originally set using criteria based on the risks that the liabilities presented to health and safety, to the environment and to AECL’s ability to meet its obligations as the owner-operator of licensed nuclear sites. The LMU later recognized that the decision criteria should also explicitly include the value gained in reducing the risks and liabilities for expended funds. Greater consideration should be given to mitigating risks to the execution of the Program that might materialize. In addition, licensing strategies and processes should be better-defined, and waste characterization methods and disposition pathways would have to be put in place, or clearly identified, to deal with the wastes the Program would generate before many of the planned activities could be initiated. The NLLP has developed several processes to assist in the detailed planning of the numerous projects and activities. These include developing a more formal procedure for setting priorities of the different parts of the Program, preparing an Integrated Waste Plan to identify the optimal suite of support facilities to be constructed, the creation of a series of “pre-project initiation” procedures and documents to guide the development of well-founded projects, and the use of staged decision-making to incorporate more flexibility to adjust Program strategy and the details of implementation at planned decision points. Several Case Studies are outlined to illustrate examples of the application of these planning techniques.

Copyright © 2010 by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited



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