Protecting Water Together
We all have a personal connection to water – it is the life force that sustains us, flows between and within us, and shapes the land.
The entire purpose of Canada's plan — the reason we are investing time, effort and money to implement it — is to protect people and the environment, including water.
The NWMO understands the importance of water and the need to protect it for generations to come. It is at the core of what we do and a shared commitment with Canadians and Indigenous peoples.
As part of that shared commitment, we invest in and support a range of projects to advance our understanding of water, contribute to the conservation of aquatic species and local habitats, provide financial support to people to improve their water wells, and learn more about water conservation and shoreline preservation.
The two potential repository sites being considered for a deep geological repository would move used nuclear fuel further away from bodies of water, including the Great Lakes, than where much of it is currently stored today. The repository design also uses a series of five engineered and natural barriers that work together to contain and isolate used nuclear fuel from people and the environment, including water.
By drawing from two knowledge systems – western science and Indigenous Knowledge – we are constantly learning about how water sustains us, the significant cultural importance of water to Indigenous peoples and the personal connections we all have with water.
The NWMO employs and partners with passionate people dedicated to protecting water across all areas of work. Together, we are listening to and learning from water so that we can always respect, protect and nurture it.
Our Investment in Water Protection
As part of our commitment to protect water, we invest in and support a wide range of initiatives to advance our understanding of water, including, but not limited to:
Systems to protect water: western science and Indigenous Knowledge
There is a strong scientific consensus that deep geological repositories are the best method to protect the environment – including water – and people for generations to come.
The two potential sites being considered for a deep geological repository are both further away from large bodies of water than many current storage locations for used nuclear fuel in Canada.
The proposed deep geological repository will contain and isolate used nuclear fuel from water and the surrounding environment using multiple barriers.
One barrier is the rock itself. This rock is deep underground – about as deep or deeper than the CN Tower is tall – and has essentially been disconnected from the water we see and water we use for millions or even billions of years.
Bentonite clay is another barrier. Bentonite is proven to be a powerful barrier to water flow. It swells when exposed to water, making it an excellent sealing material. Bentonite is also very stable, as seen in natural formations formed millions to hundreds of millions of years ago.
We also plan to use a thin copper coating on the used nuclear fuel containers, which has the mechanical strength to withstand pressures of more than 500 metres of overlying rock and three-kilometre-thick glaciers during a future ice age. Copper is a natural material that is known to be durable under deep rock conditions. Naturally pure copper ore has been mined from around the Great Lakes region, and Indigenous communities have explored the copper deposits in the same area for thousands of years, building substantial local, traditional knowledge.
Elders and Traditional Knowledge Holders have told us that access to and preservation of water is particularly top-of-mind to Indigenous peoples, who have travelled by and been sustained by these waters since time immemorial. This knowledge brings a deeper understanding to the NWMO’s process for selecting a site to safely and securely store Canada’s used nuclear fuel.
Indigenous peoples see water as Mother Earth’s lifeline, so it is important that our work protects Mother Earth and water.
In Indigenous peoples’ worldview, everything Mother Earth created has spirit and it is viewed as alive, including water. The NWMO understands and respects this important belief, and we are committed to protecting water and the communities that surround it.
We are working with communities, including Indigenous Knowledge Holders, to ensure our work is guided by the responsibility to protect people and the environment, including water for future generations.