NWMO to begin field studies at Canadian repository site

28 May 2020

The Canadian Radioactive Waste Management Organisation (NWMO) will focus its activities in South Bruce, Ontario on safety and protecting the environment, the organisation said last week in an update to local stakeholders. The NWMO is planning to begin field studies later this year at the potential repository site to determine whether it meets the project's safety requirements.

Water sampling will be one of the elements included in the environmental baseline monitoring programme (Image: NWMO)

The work will include borehole drilling, geophysical studies, environmental monitoring, and other site investigation work such as indigenous cultural verification, NWMO said. As planning progresses over the coming months, the NWMO will engage with the community and share information on planned field activities. All activities will be implemented in a way that is mindful of public health provisions related to COVID-19.

The update on plans for next steps in South Bruce was delivered to South Bruce Council on May 26 by Ben Belfadhel, NWMO vice president of site selection, who said the organisation's approach is consistent with international best practice and is the culmination of more than 30 years of scientific developments and technology demonstration.

"The NWMO will need to demonstrate that any site selected can safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel for a very long period of time," he said.

This project will also be subject to a thorough regulatory review process, including an impact assessment and a licensing review to ensure that it is implemented in a manner that protects people and the environment. The community will be involved in designing the environment baseline monitoring programme, Belfadhel said.

"We know that protecting the environment and water is a priority for the residents of South Bruce and that's why we will co-create a shared environmental monitoring programme with the community," he said.

The NWMO is also working with the community to plan wellbeing studies to ensure that the project can be implemented in a manner that is responsive to community members' concerns, objectives and aspirations. Geological and environmental data from field studies along with engineering design studies, safety assessment analyses and Indigenous knowledge will help build the confidence that deep geological repository can be developed with a strong safety case, NWMO said. The safety case brings together all the information contributing to understanding whether or not a repository at the site could safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel.

NWMO is a not-for-profit organisation to which the Canadian government in 2002 assigned responsibility for the long-term management of the nation's used nuclear fuel. South Bruce is one of two potential hosts for a deep geological repository narrowed down from a list of 21 communities that had registered interest, in a long-term process called Adaptive Phase Management that was launched in 2010. Studies are also continuing in the area of Ignace, in north-western Ontario. The NWMO expects to identify a single, preferred site to host the project, in an area with informed and willing hosts, by 2023.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News