Canadian Nuclear Laboratories

CNL is Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology organization, and a world leader in developing nuclear technology for peaceful and innovative applications.

Using our unique expertise, we are restoring and protecting the environment, we are advancing clean energy technology, and our medical breakthroughs continue to improve the health of people around the world.

To support revitalization, ongoing research and the cleanup mission at Chalk River Laboratories, our main campus, CNL is proposing to build the Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF), a permanent solution for low-level radioactive waste at the site.

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Near Surface Disposal Facility

The Near Surface Disposal Facility, or NSDF, is an engineered containment mound with natural and synthetic barriers.

The facility enables the safe, permanent disposal of low-level waste from more than 100 legacy buildings and contaminated land at Chalk River Laboratories as well as waste from 70 years of science and technology research.


What We Heard

CNL has been engaging with the public and Indigenous communities for more than six years, listening to your concerns. The facility we are proposing has been informed by that feedback and we are committed to continuing the dialogue on responsible waste solutions. 


Layers of Protection

The layers of the NSDF work together as a system to contain low-level radioactive waste until radioactive decay occurs to a point where the material poses no risk to the public or the environment.

The mound is designed to isolate the waste materials from the environment for more than 550 years.


Learn more about the NSDF by watching a webinar about the cap and liner system.

Protection by Isolation

Isolation in the NSDF allows the radioactive properties of the materials to decay to levels that would be found in the natural environment.

Long-term modelling and testing have been done to demonstrate that the facility is:

  • Safe and secure: designed to withstand extreme weather and events such as earthquakes, tornadoes, forest fires, sabotage and major storms
  • Proven: the engineered containment mound is internationally recognized as best practice for low-level radioactive waste disposal and the barrier system for the NSDF has undergone rigorous materials testing at Queen’s University in Kington, Ontario
  • Permanent: providing a long-term solution to Canada’s growing problem of where to store its low-level waste to ensure we take care of people and the environment.
decay graphic
New CRL aerial 1


The proposed facility will be located at the Chalk River Laboratories – the headquarters of CNL.

This location was selected in part because 90% of the low level waste is at CRL, this would limit the need to transport the waste on public roadways.

Chalk River is already a licensed and strictly monitored site. In addition, the surrounding area’s geology and groundwater has been thoroughly studied.

Protecting the Ottawa River

Protection of the Ottawa River was a key factor in selecting the location.

The proposed NSDF site is located approximately one kilometer away from the Ottawa River and would be built on a bedrock ridge - a natural divide - that directs water away from the river.

Many CNL employees have lived and worked around Chalk River Laboratories for generations. Our care for the river is why building the NSDF is important to us.



CNL is engaging with Indigenous Peoples, residents, all levels of government and our neighbours and organizations in the region. We have been listening closely to people’s concerns and questions and incorporating their feedback as we move forward.


We are proposing to start construction on the NSDF this year. The facility will be operating for 50 years starting in 2024 and then decommissioned and closed.

After operations, the area will be safely contained and extensively monitored.

Blandings turtle with telemetry

Our Commitment

CNL will protect its workers, the public, and the environment during the entire lifecycle of the NSDF.

  • We will apply modern waste management standards and technologies to reduce risks associated with radioactive wastes
  • We will continue engagement with the public and Indigenous Peoples and proactively address concerns
  • We will ensure the protection of human health and the environment during every phase of the project
  • We will carry out periodic reviews and updates of the safety case through all licensing stages 

Get Involved

We need your support to make this project a reality.  There are a number of ways to be involved including participating in an upcoming hearing, following us on social media and sharing our posts.

Want to learn more?

Watch our videos

For more about CNL’s scientific research, waste management and the future of Chalk River check out our YouTube Channel

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