Safety reports confirm suitability of Canadian repository sites

16 June 2022

Canada's Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is confident in the suitability of both potential sites under consideration to host a deep geological repository to store the nation's used nuclear fuel.

A geoscientist examines rock cores from drilling at South Bruce (Image: NWMO)

The newly published Confidence in Safety reports, which are based on years of research and fieldwork, summarise NWMO's understanding of the two siting areas: the Revell Site, some 43 km northwest of the town of Ignace, and 21 km southeast of the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation; and the South Bruce Site, about 5 km northwest of Teeswater in the Municipality of South Bruce.

Both potential sites were found to share common features that support the overall safety of the project, NWMO said. They are located in stable, seismically quiet settings, with rock formations of the necessary depth, breadth and volume to isolate the repository, which will be built more than 500 metres underground. Neither site has known economically exploitable resources - such as minerals, salt or gas - within the rock, reducing the risk of human intrusion into the repository in the future.

"Safety is our highest priority. It drives everything we do," said NWMO President and CEO Laurie Swami, adding that the reports mark a "major achievement" in the ongoing site selection process.

The process to identify a preferred site with informed and willing hosts was launched by the NWMO in 2010, with 22 communities expressing an interest in potentially hosting the repository. The two sites that are now being considered are both in Ontario and were narrowed down from the original list after years of technical assessments and community engagement. The NWMO expects to make the final selection next year.

"The Confidence in Safety reports outline the basis for the NWMO's confidence that a deep geological repository can be constructed at either potential site, to safely and responsibly manage Canada's used nuclear fuel for the very long term," NWMO Director of Safety and Technical Research Paul Gierszewski said. "Our work in Canada is grounded in decades of international research and scientific consensus that deep geological repositories represent the best solution for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel."

The reports will be used to support continuing dialogue about the project, including helping to inform the communities that are considering their willingness to host the project, NWMO said.

Once the final site selection has been made, its safety will be confirmed through a rigorous regulatory review of the repository design and safety case. The regulatory and licensing process is expected to take approximately 10 years to complete.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News