Thank you for the question. I put this in the category of some of those grand challenges that industries are facing with technologies that address big social issues. The social issue here is not the DGR; it's how to provide clean, safe, reliable energy at scale. Nuclear technology is one of the answers to that. It, unlike, for example, the fossil fuel energy source, has no externalities. One sees the waste at the end of the equation and says, here it is. It's not in the air. It's not in the oceans. The question is how best to deal with it.
The issue of DGR technologies has been examined over many years, previously by AECL and now by CNL, to understand the science around keeping this material isolated for long periods of time, understanding how radiological materials migrate in the environment. These have been put forward as solutions that are believed to be safe. Those go through regulatory reviews to gain an opinion on whether that's considered acceptable for moving forward.
To the point I made in my remarks, oftentimes, and not just in this case but also I would say in the case of child vaccinations or genetically modified foods, we end up with case studies that are indicative of how a risk is perceived by the public. On the one hand, science comes forward to try to explain that risk and the risk versus the benefits and it looks at how society accepts that. I've seen times where society's response to that is that no risk is acceptable. How do you find the right answer to move forward on these issues?
I don't have the answer to this but I suggest that among the policy and legislative and regulatory issues that governments will struggle with as we move forward to find technology answers to some of these big challenges with public health, energy, and climate change, we are going to struggle to find answers to the question of whether society will accept the risk-benefit equation in moving this forward.
To your point about ongoing research on ways to recycle fuel, I made reference to reactor technology going forward. Much of that research is built around what is called the closed fuel cycle. In other words, you burn the fuel, you take it out, you do some work on it, you put it back in the reactor, and you burn it again. You actually diminish the volume of waste. You dramatically extend the lifetime before you're into a DGR kind of problem. Ultimately the view is still that you'll need deep geological repositories but perhaps with less footprint, less radioactivity, etc., and perhaps with greater public acceptance.
I think the profound question here is whether this is a discussion around DGRs or a discussion on finding solutions to decarbonize economies. We tend to be having only the first discussion and not linking it to the second discussion.