Public and worker safety

Measures to protect the public and workers from radiation and other hazards are being incorporated into all phases of the NWMO's management of used nuclear fuel. This includes the safe transport of used fuel from current storage facilities, to its inspection and repackaging at surface facilities, and its long-term placement in the deep geological repository.

    Safety in the deep geological repository

    We are working to optimize repository designs to minimize the risk of exposure to radioactive materials, as well as the risk from accidents. This will be tested in part through safety assessments, which examine the behaviour of the design under both likely and unlikely scenarios.

    During the placement of used fuel bundles in the repository, workers and the public will be protected through a robust design. This includes, for example, use of thick shielding, monitored ventilation systems, and minimizing the extent to which the bundles are lifted.

    Once the used fuel has been placed in the repository, the repository's multiple-barrier system will ensure ongoing safety to the public and workers over the long term. 

    Safety during transport

    Although still in the early stages of transportation planning, we have conducted assessments of potential radiation risk to the public and workers during shipment by both road and rail. Studies showed that the potential exposure to radiation for both the public and workers during transportation is well below the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regulatory limit and the radiation dose received from natural sources.

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    Confidence in safety

    Confidence in safety

    In 2022 we published Confidence in Safety reports for each of the two potential sites being considered to host a deep geological repository to safely manage Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

    The reports are based on years of research and fieldwork. They summarize the NWMO’s understanding of each siting area, including geological characteristics that indicate the sites can meet the project’s requirements to contain and isolate used nuclear fuel to protect people and the environment.

    After a site is selected, additional studies will be undertaken to further inform the repository design and long-term safety case.
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    A photo of the engineered barrier system

    Multiple-barrier system

    In the deep geological repository, a series of engineered and natural barriers will work together to contain and isolate used nuclear fuel to protect people and the environment. Each barrier provides a unique and stand-alone level of protection. If any of the barriers deteriorates, the next one comes into play.
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