Collaborative Water Quality Board Study Recommends Improvements to Nuclear Power Plant Retirement Plans to Better Protect the Great Lakes


The International Joint Commission’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board brought together advocates and critics of nuclear energy to recommend improvements to nuclear power plant retirement plans to better protect the environment. The board studied the issue of aging nuclear facilities in the Great Lakes and their impacts on water quality. The board’s report, “Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Facilities in the Great Lakes Basin,” recommends higher standards for retiring nuclear power plants around the Great Lakes’ coast.

Board member panelists will summarize report recommendations and answer audience questions during a 60-minute Zoom webinar on April 29, 2022, starting at 11:30 a.m. ET. Advance registration is required for this free public webinar:

The Great Lakes unite us, even on a topic as polarizing as nuclear energy,” said Gayle Wood, Water Quality Board Canadian co-chair and retired Conservation Authorities chief administrative officer.

The Canadian and US federal governments regulate nuclear decommissioning. The board’s report highlights four areas where decommissioning rules can be improved to better protect the Great Lakes, including: public engagement and transparency, radioactive waste storage, transporting spent nuclear fuel, and the cleanup and monitoring of residual contamination. A video summarizes how the board incorporated diverse perspectives to arrive at the recommendations.

“The board focused on the policy and process of decommissioning, not the technical specifics,” said Jon Allan, Water Quality Board US co-chair and senior adviser at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability. “For example, we recommend a consistent binational standard for cleaning up residual radioactive contamination, but not what that specific standard should be.”

There are 38 nuclear reactors at 18 generating stations at 15 sites on the shores of the Great Lakes in Canada and the United States. Nuclear power plants have a finite, 20- to 60-year lifespan and eventually must be retired or “decommissioned.” Eight of the 38 reactors are permanently shut down and seven more are scheduled to be decommissioned by 2025. Until governments identify permanent or interim solutions, nuclear wastes are temporarily stored onsite.

In addition to 18 nuclear power plants in the basin, this map shows other facilities involved in the nuclear energy lifecycle in and around the Great Lakes basin. Credit: Citizens’ Clearinghouse on Waste Management and Great Lakes United 

See also, from our Great Lakes Connection newsletter: “Special Precautions Recommended for Retiring Nuclear Plants in the Great Lakes


The Great Lakes Water Quality Board is the principal adviser to the International Joint Commission under the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The board assists the Commission by reviewing and assessing progress by the governments of Canada and the United States to implement the Agreement, identifying emerging issues and recommending strategies and approaches to prevent and resolve complex challenges facing the Great Lakes, and providing advice on the role of relevant jurisdictions to implement these strategies and approaches. The IJC was established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the governments of Canada and the United States prevent and resolve disputes over the use of the waters they share. More information can be found at

For more information:

Allison Voglesong Zejnati, IJC Great Lakes Regional Office Public Affairs Specialist (contractor), 519-551-0952,

Mark Burrows, IJC Great Lakes Regional Office, Project Lead, 519-257-6709,