Ontario plan for waste storage

27 April 2011

A study on the environmental impact of storing radioactive waste underground in Ontario has been put to safety regulators as part of the process to develop permanent storage facilities.


OPG DGR concept
Concept of the proposed DGR project (Image: OPG)
The utility Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is proposing to dispose of some 200,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level waste (LLW/ILW) in a repository to be built about 680 metres underground in low permeability limestone, beneath a 200 metre thick layer of low permeability shale. The company says that the facility - to be located adjacent to OPG's Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF) at the Bruce nuclear power plant site - will only be used to dispose of such waste from the nuclear power plants it owns in the province. Used fuel will not be stored or managed in the facility, OPG stated.


OPG has submitted the environmental impact statement, the preliminary safety report and supporting documents for its Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Together, the documents total some 12,500 pages. The studies represent "more than four years of significant study, analyses and investigations," OPG said.


"The submission reflects a broad range of consultation from experts as well as input through a robust public engagement process conducted in an open and transparent manner," OPG said. "The submission is necessary to secure an approved environmental assessment and a site preparation/construction licence," said the firm. Its conclusion was that "the DGR project will not likely result in any significant adverse environmental or public health effects."


Following a period of public comment, the CNSC will hold a public hearing (anticipated in 2012), where stakeholders will have the opportunity to present their feedback on the proposed repository. OPG anticipates that, pending licensing approval, the DGR will begin to receive radioactive waste around 2018 at the earliest.


The WWMF currently manages and provides interim storage for LLW/ILW from its Bruce, Darlington and Pickering plants. In 2001, the municipality of Kincardine, in which the Bruce site is located - requested OPG to consider options for the long-term management of the company's LLW/ILW at the WWMF. This led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the parties in 2002 which set out the terms for a plan to study the long-term management options for LLW/ILW at the Bruce nuclear site. A DGR hosting agreement was subsequently signed in October 2004 between OPG and Kincardine.


The environmental assessment process for the DGR project was initiated with the submission of a project description by OPG to the CNSC in December 2005. The site preparation and construction licence application for the DGR was submitted in August 2007.


In January 2009, OPG contracted with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) to provide technical services and other support to obtain regulatory approvals for the DGR.


Financing for the DGR project is provided from the decommissioning fund established under the Ontario Nuclear Funds Agreement.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News