Historic Waste Program

The federal government exercises responsibility for the management of historic Low-Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW) under the Historic Waste program. The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Office (LLRWMO) carries out cleanup and long-term management of this waste on behalf of the federal government as mandated in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL). Historic LLRW contamination has been found at various locations in Canada, including Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Ontario and British Columbia. Historic waste artefacts continue to be recovered from numerous sites throughout the country.

Some specialized Historic Waste activities include:

  • Environmental Remediation
  • Interim Waste Management Program
  • Artefact Recovery Program

What is “Historic” Low-Level Radioactive Waste?

Historic low-level radioactive waste is LLRW that was managed in a manner no longer considered acceptable, but for which the owner cannot reasonably be held responsible, and for which the federal government has accepted responsibility for its long-term management.

Canada’s historic waste mostly consists of soil mixed with process residues and contaminated material. It dates back to the 1930s when radium was mined and then refined for medical and industrial applications. Historic waste also includes traces of radium-uranium ores spilled during transportation from the Northwest Territories along the Northern Transportation Route (NTR) to the refinery in Port Hope, Ontario. Most of the waste is now safely stored at interim storage facilities located at or near the originally contaminated sites.

The goals of the LLRWMO Historic Waste Program are to:

  • provide technical assessment and advice to NRCan on the development of government policies for the management of historic LLRW in Canada;
  • clean up and manage for the long term, Canada’s historic LLRW at various locations in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories;
  • identify and provide technical consultation on and management of radioactive artefacts found on public and private properties throughout Canada; and
  • perform interim remediation and ongoing monitoring of contaminated sites, as required, to protect the health of Canadians and the environment in which they live prior to the availability of long-term management facilities.