The Act required Canadian electricity generating companies which produce used nuclear fuel to establish a waste management organization to provide recommendations to the Government of Canada on the long-term management of used nuclear fuel. The legislation also required the waste owners to establish segregated trust funds to finance the long term management of the used fuel. The Act further authorized the Government of Canada to decide on the approach. The government’s choice will then be implemented by the NWMO, subject to all of the necessary regulatory approvals.
In 2005, after a three-year study, the NWMO recommended Adaptive Phased Management (APM). In 2007, the Canadian government accepted NWMO's recommendation.
Adaptive Phased Management is both a technical method and a management system, with an emphasis on adaptability. Technically, it is centralized containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel in a deep geological repository. The management system involves realistic, manageable phases – each marked by explicit decision points with continuing participation by interested Canadians. It is flexible, allowing for go, no-go decisions at each stage to take advantage of new knowledge or changing societal priorities. Adaptive Phased Management provides an option for shallow underground storage at the central site if some or all of the used fuel needs to be moved before the deep repository is available. It also provides for continuous monitoring throughout implementation and for retrievability for an extended period.
The NWMO is currently in the initial stages of implementing the Adaptive Phased Management approach. It has initiated the collaborative design of a siting process with Canadians, and is continuing technical and social research.