The Back-End of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Establishing a Viable Roadmap for a Multilateral Interim Storage Facility

The Consent-Based Approach for Site Selection

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Robert Rosner, Lenka Kollar, and James P. Malone
Global Nuclear Future

Canada’s Plan for the Long-Term Management of Used Fuel

In 2007, the government of Canada devised a plan for the long-term management of used fuel entitled the “Adaptive Phased Management” approach. It involves an informed and willing host community and the development of a large infrastructure project by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO).32 This approach is very similar to that recommended by the BRC in that a site is chosen on a consent-basis and an independent organization implements the project. For this multilateral storage facility, Canada recommends that a similar approach be used for selecting a host state and community.

The Adaptive Phased Management approach is a multistep process whose implementation began with the open publication of its strategy. That first step—launching a program to provide information to the public—initiated the facility siting process. Communities then identified their interest in learning more about becoming a host of the repository. In 2013, at the request of the community, feasibility studies were conducted for eight of the twenty-one interested communities. Moving forward from the present, communities with confirmed suitable sites will decide whether they are willing to accept the project, and the NWMO will enter into a formal agreement with the preferred host. Furthermore, regulatory authorities will review the safety of the project through a public process. After the successful construction and operation of a demonstration facility, construction and operation of the repository will begin in continuing partnership with the host community.33

The following guiding principles of the project also exemplify that this is a consent-based and transparent site selection process:

  • Safety, security, and protection of people and the environment are first and foremost.
  • The host community must be informed and willing to accept the project.
  • Communities will only be considered for this project if they willingly enter the process.
  • Communities that decide to participate have the right to end their involvement at any point up to and until a final agreement is signed.
  • The host community has a right to benefit from the project.
  • The questions and concerns of surrounding communities and those on the transportation route must be addressed.
  • The NWMO will involve all potentially affected provincial governments.
  • The siting process will respect Aboriginal rights and treaties and will take into account unresolved claims between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown.34

Used-Fuel Management in Sweden and Finland

Used-fuel management strategies in Sweden and Finland can also provide some lessons learned for the consent-based approach in siting a used-fuel repository. The Swedish nuclear utility SKB began its final disposal process by sending letters to municipalities across the nation asking them to voluntarily apply to host a repository. Two communities agreed to participate in a feasibility study but had trouble gaining public support for continuing the siting process. SKB then decided instead to approach communities that already had a history of supporting nuclear installations, mainly municipalities with existing nuclear power plants in the area. Two sites were found to be suitable and polls showed support from the residents. SKB then applied for a license to construct a repository near the Forsmark nuclear plant in Östhammar. The BRC acknowledged Sweden’s process as a good example of a consent-based approach to siting a repository.35

Finland followed Sweden’s approach in choosing potential sites before engaging with local citizens and also in using a nongovernmental entity to manage the used fuel. While there was some pushback from the local community, an agreement that included repository requirements and the provision to move the fuel if it did not meet those requirements was finally reached. In both Sweden and Finland, the economic benefit to the local communities was successfully used as a selling point because these communities were already benefitting from existing nuclear infrastructure. Sweden and Finland are the farthest along in opening the first commercial used-fuel repositories in the world.36


32 Nuclear Waste Management Organization, “Canada’s Plan for the Long-Term Management of Used Fuel: Step 1. Initiate Process,”

33 Nuclear Waste Management Organization, “Canada’s Plan for the Long-Term Management of Used Fuel: Review the Steps,”

34 Nuclear Waste Management Organization, “Canada’s Plan for the Long-Term Management of Used Fuel: Overview: Selecting a Site,”

35 Nuclear Energy Institute, “Other Countries Provide Lessons for U.S. in Managing Used Nuclear Fuel,” February 13, 2014,

36 Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, “Report to the Secretary of Energy.”