Further studies for Canadian repository candidates

04 December 2014

Preliminary assessments by Canada's Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) have identified two Ontario communities that could potentially meet the selection requirements to host a long-term radioactive waste repository.

The first phase of preliminary assessments has been completed at three communities in Bruce County, Ontario that expressed interest. Based on work undertaken collaboratively with each community, the Municipality of South Bruce and the Township of Huron-Kinloss have both been assessed as having strong potential to meet site selection requirements and have been identified by NWMO for further study. The Municipality of Brockton was not selected for more detailed study.

Preliminary assessment studies in two other interested communities, Arran-Elderslie and Saugeen Shores, were discontinued in January, based on interim technical findings. A further 11 communities in Ontario and Sasketchewan are also involved in ongoing work as part of the site selection process.

The findings do not confirm the technical suitability or safety of any site, NWMO said, and no community has yet been asked to confirm its willingness to host the project.

Mitch Twolan, mayor of Huron-Kinloss, said that the township was looking forward to the more detailed study. "Used nuclear fuel is a reality that our generation must take responsibility for," he said. "At the end of the day, the community will decide whether hosting a repository is the right thing for us and, if so, how we proceed."

The two-phase preliminary assessments are the third of nine steps in a multi-year process for evaluating potential suitability of communities to host a deep geological repository for Canada’s used nuclear fuel. The second phase, for those communities identified as suitable, will involve intensive and broadly-focused community learning and engagement, including First Nation and Métis communities in the area as well as nearby municipalities.
Phase two also sees the start of preliminary fieldwork, including geological surveys followed by limited borehole drilling, to further assess geology and site suitability against technical safety requirements.

Canada began its search for an 'informed and willing' community to host a deep geological repository for its used nuclear fuel in 2010 in a process called Adaptive Phase Management (APM). Through the process, the NWMO is seeking an informed and willing community to host the repository, the underground demonstration facility and the associated centre of expertise.

The Canadian Nuclear Regulatory Commission (CNSC) has been involved from the earliest days of the project, providing regulatory guidance and support. In line with the regulator's mandate to disseminate objective scientific and regulatory information. CNSC has said it will send staff to visit interested communities to answer technical and scientific questions as well as providing further information about its role in the APM project.

As individual studies are completed, the NWMO says it will continue to narrow its focus to areas with strong potential to be suitable for hosting a repository. It is expected to take several more years to complete the necessary studies to identify a preferred site and an informed and willing host. Communities may choose to end their involvement at any point during the site evaluation process, until a final agreement is signed.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News