Canada and US Strengthen Cooperation on Nuclear Fuel Management

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At Canada’s Embassy in Washington, Laurie Swami, President and CEO of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (left) and Dr. Kathryn Huff, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (right), sign a Statement of Intent to Co-operate on Used Nuclear Fuel Management.
At Canada’s Embassy in Washington, Laurie Swami, President and CEO of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (left) and Dr. Kathryn Huff, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (right), sign a Statement of Intent to Co-operate on Used Nuclear Fuel Management.

Washington, D.C. – In a step towards the safe and responsible management of nuclear waste, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), a Canadian not-for-profit organization, has signed a Statement of Intent (SOI) with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to collaborate on Used Nuclear Fuel Management.

This collaborative agreement highlights the shared commitment of both nations, Canada and the United States, in the safe handling of used nuclear fuel, including fuel derived from small modular reactors (SMRs). By promoting the exchange of information, consent-based siting, science and technology programs, engagement activities, and joint technical studies, this partnership aims to enhance the management of nuclear waste.

The signing of the SOI follows President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm’s visit to Canada in March, during which Natural Resources Canada and the DOE issued a joint statement emphasizing the countries’ determination to cooperate on nuclear energy and work towards shared net-zero and energy transition goals. The joint statement also underscored the importance of consent-based siting for used nuclear fuel, aligning the visions of the U.S. and Canada. The latest announcement further strengthens the bilateral efforts in achieving this common goal, reflecting the countries’ commitment to environmental responsibility and clean energy.

Laurie Swami, CEO of the NWMO, expressed enthusiasm for the partnership, stating, “For more than two decades, the NWMO has demonstrated our commitment to engaging with communities, conducting scientific research, and developing innovative technologies for safely managing used nuclear fuel over the long term, which we are eager to share with our international partners.” Swami further highlighted that the agreement fortifies the network of international collaborations supporting the development of consent-based siting strategies, ensuring that both Canadians and Americans can work together to prioritize protecting people and the environment.

The NWMO is currently implementing Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of the country’s used nuclear fuel through a deep geological repository. The plan focuses on safeguarding future generations by selecting an area with informed and willing hosts, where the municipality, First Nation and Métis communities, and other stakeholders are actively involved in its implementation. The NWMO aims to finalize the selection of a suitable site by 2024.

Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dr. Kathryn Huff emphasized the need for diverse perspectives in the U.S. consent-based siting process, stating, “Sharing information and collaborating will bring a sustainable, clean energy future closer to reality,” acknowledging the importance of learning from Canadian colleagues in the field.

Debbie Scharf, Assistant Deputy Minister at Natural Resources Canada, commended the collaboration, stating, “This statement of intent to collaborate between the NWMO and the US Department of Energy is a great example of how the international community can come together to support safe and responsible nuclear development and ensure that socially acceptable radioactive waste strategies are developed early.” Scharf also recognized the NWMO’s leadership and expertise in consent-based siting and nuclear fuel waste disposal, as well as their efforts in engaging with Indigenous communities and Canadians.

To commemorate the signing of the agreement, a ceremony was held at the Embassy of Canada in Washington, D.C. NWMO and DOE leaders participated in the ceremony, affirming their commitment to implementing the agreement and expanding cooperation through specific, standalone agreements permitted under the SOI.

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