Information on nuclear power facilities, decommissioning regulations and spent nuclear fuel storage now accessible in new background report

At its September Executive Meeting, the International Joint Commission (IJC) approved release of an informational report, Nuclear Power Facilities in the Great Lakes Basin: Compendium of information related to the current status and decommissioning of Great Lakes nuclear power facilities to support the development of a Great Lakes Water Quality Board report. Thanks to industry and regulator cooperation, this Great Lakes Water Quality Board background report provides information about nuclear energy production, regulations and waste management, decommissioning processes, and the status of nuclear power facilities in the Great Lakes basin.

The background report, as well as this accompanying GIS Story Map, provides unbiased information all in one place, making it easier to compare and analyze facilities and regulations. This report is strictly informational and does not provide recommendations about nuclear facility operation or regulations.

Dave Ullrich, US Co-Chair of the Great Lakes Water Quality Board said, “This report is especially valuable because it documents critically important, objective, factual information about the nuclear power industry on the Great Lakes that will help governments manage the risks presented as these plants reach the end of their useful lives. The carbon-free energy provided by them is a clear benefit to the environment, but the residual waste is a serious concern.”

The nuclear power era began in Canada and the United States in the 1950s. Soon after nuclear power plants started operating on the shores of the Great Lakes, the IJC began studying and reporting to the federal governments on the environmental impacts of the nuclear energy lifecycle. In total, 38 nuclear reactors at 16 generating stations were constructed and generated electricity in the Great Lakes basin. Thirty nuclear reactors at 12 generating stations are still operating in the basin and will eventually be decommissioned.

Due to changes in energy market conditions and other considerations, operators have announced the closure of nine nuclear reactors at four sites in the Great Lakes basin before their operating licenses expire and will require early decommissioning.

This informational report is the first phase of the Water Quality Board’s two-year project on Decommissioning Practices of Nuclear Power Facilities in the Great Lakes Basin. This informational report, along with a consultant’s report and outcomes of an expert workshop, will be used by the board to develop advice and recommendations to the Commission on actions the governments could take to reduce or eliminate threats to the Great Lakes from the potential release of radioactive contaminants as a result of decommissioning. This project is expected to be completed in fall 2020.

The Great Lakes Water Quality Board is the principal advisor to the International Joint Commission under the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The board assists the Commission by reviewing and assessing progress by the governments of Canada and the United States to implement the Agreement, identifying emerging issues and recommending strategies and approaches to prevent and resolve complex challenges facing the Great Lakes, and providing advice on the role of relevant jurisdictions to implement these strategies and approaches.

The IJC was established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help Canada and the United States prevent and resolve disputes over the use of the waters they share.

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