Is it true that no deep geological repository on earth has ever been proven to safely and successfully store used nuclear fuel? Can you provide information about operational deep geological repositories?

Response

Last updated 7/16/2020

There are repositories for radioactive waste operating safely in a number of other countries right now, including Sweden, Finland, South Korea, and the US. These operating repositories sometimes differ from ours – for example they aren’t all as deep as the one we are planning – because each is designed for its own specific location and purpose:

  • The United States’ Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico (680 m deep) contains high level waste from their defence program;
  • Sweden’s Final Repository for Short-lived Radioactive Waste in Östhammar is about 100 km north of Stockholm (in rock 50 m beneath the Baltic seabed);
  • Finland’s Operational Waste Repositories are at Olkiluoto in Eurajoki and at Hästholmen in Loviisa (both in rock about 100 m deep); and
  • Korea’s Gyeongju nuclear waste disposal facility is in North Gyeongsang province (80 m deep).

Scientists around the world agree that a deep geological repository is the safest way to isolate and contain the radioactivity from used nuclear fuel over the very long term. It is the method being implemented by all countries with commercial nuclear power programs around the world. This approach is the culmination of more than 30 years of research, development and demonstration of technologies and techniques.

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How will people and the environment be protected?

Response

Last updated 9/5/2018

Canada's plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel involves containing and isolating it in a deep geological repository.

Safety of people and the environment is the top priority in the process for selecting a repository site. We will need to demonstrate that any site selected can safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel for a very long period of time. There cannot be any credible risk from the repository to the public or the environment.

The repository will be located deep underground in a suitable rock formation, which must meet site selection technical criteria for the development of a robust safety case. This approach is consistent with international best practice, and is the culmination of more than 30 years of research, development, and demonstration of technologies and techniques.

The repository uses multiple barriers that include the waste form, container, sealing materials, and host rock. The system is designed such that the failure of one component would not jeopardize the safety of the containment system as a whole.

The project will also be subject to a thorough regulatory review process, including an environmental assessment and a licensing review to ensure that it is implemented in a manner that protects people and the environment.

Once placed in the repository, the used nuclear fuel will be monitored for an extended period of time.

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How will a single, preferred location be chosen?

Response

Last updated 3/2/2020

Since 2010, we have been engaged in a multi-year, community-driven process to identify a site where Canada’s used nuclear fuel can be safely contained and isolated in a deep geological repository.

Potential siting areas are identified and assessed in a series of steps that began when communities formally expressed interest in learning more.

The safety and appropriateness of any potential site will be assessed against a number of factors, both technical and social in nature.

The process is community driven. It is designed to ensure, above all, that the site selected is safe and secure, and has an informed and willing host. The process must meet the highest scientific, professional and ethical standards. 

The project will only proceed with the involvement of Municipal and Indigenous communities in the area and surrounding communities, working in partnership to implement it.

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How does the NWMO involve people in implementing the plan?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

Collaboration with both experts and the public is key to the design of Canada's plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel, and is at the heart of the plan's implementation. We have involved and will continue to involve people throughout the process in the implementation of the plan by:

  • Soliciting input from the public and specialists during the design of the site selection process;
  • Carrying out a community-driven site selection process that involves interested host communities in decision-making at every step, including the planning and implementation of all technical and social assessments and work;
  • Collaboratively engaging in dialogue with the interested community, First Nation and Métis communities, and surrounding municipalities about potential sites and the implementation of the project; and
  • Responding to the views, questions and concerns of others who are most likely to be affected by the implementation of the project, including those potentially affected by the transportation of used nuclear fuel.

We will also provide forms of assistance to interested communities and others potentially affected so they can participate in the process.

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Can used nuclear fuel be transported safely?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

Transportation of radioactive material is a well-established practice. Over 50 years, there have been more than 20,000 shipments worldwide of used nuclear fuel, using road, rail and water transport. Canada has proven, and continues to demonstrate, its ability to safely transport used fuel, with hundreds of shipments made since the 1960s.

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