AECL Whiteshell Laboratories (WL), near Winnipeg, Canada has been in operation since the early 1960s. R&D programs carried out at WL include a 60 MW organic-cooled research reactor, which operated from 1965 to 1985, reactor safety research, small reactor development, materials science, post irradiation examinations, chemistry, biophysics and radiation applications. The Canadian Nuclear Fuel Waste Management Program was conducted and continues to operate at WL and also at the nearby Underground Research Laboratory.
In the late-1990s, AECL began to consolidate research and development activities at its Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) and began preparations for decommissioning WL. Preparations for decommissioning included a staged shutdown of operations, planning documentation and licensing for decommissioning. As a prerequisite to AECL's application for a decommissioning licence, an environmental assessment (EA) was carried out according to Canadian environmental assessment legislation. The EA concluded in 2002 April when the Federal Environment Minister published his decision that WL decommissioning was not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects and that no further assessment by a review panel or mediation would be required
In 2002 December, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission issued a decommissioning licence for WL, valid until December 31, 2008. The licence authorized the first planned phase of site decommissioning as well as the continuation of selected research programs. The six-year licence for Whiteshell Laboratories was the first overall decommissioning license issued for a Canadian Nuclear Research and Test Establishment and was the longest licence term ever granted for a nuclear installation of this complexity in Canada.
The first phase of decommissioning is now underway and focuses on decontamination and modifications to nuclear facilities, such as the shielded facilities, the main R&D laboratories and the associated service systems, to achieve a safe state of storage-with-surveillance. Later phases have planned waste management improvements for selected wastes already in storage, eventually followed by final decommissioning of facilities and infrastructure and removal of most wastes from the site.
This paper provides an overview of the planning, environmental assessment, licensing, and organizational processes for decommissioning and selected descriptions of decommissioning activities currently underway at AECL Whiteshell Laboratories.