How is the NWMO protecting local watersheds?

Response

Last updated 12/22/2021

The entire purpose of Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel is to protect people and the environment, including watersheds, for generations to come.

Watersheds are areas of land that drain or “shed” water into a specific body of water.

To protect watersheds, we are partnering with landowners, conservation authorities and other interested organizations to lead baseline and research studies to understand the natural ecological system in the area, including surface water, groundwater, soil, air, wetlands, and animals and species at risk. These studies will inform our work as we mitigate or eliminate potential adverse impacts of the project using technologies and operational best practices.

Some of these studies and research include:

  • The impact of climate change to factor it into the design of the repository. Climate change is expected to cause an increase in precipitation which can impact the watershed resulting in flooding or other extreme climate events.
  • Installing shallow groundwater monitoring wells as part of our borehole drilling activities in the siting communities to help us understand the geology and groundwater systems in the first 100 metres below the surface.
  • Sampling of water from lakes and rivers, helps us to understand how water flows from watersheds into those bodies of water and how it and interacts with the surrounding environment

There will be continuous monitoring of the natural environment throughout all phases of the project, including open and transparent reporting and information sharing.

And, over the long term, watersheds and the surrounding environment will be protected by the multiple barrier system that will contain and isolate used nuclear fuel in the repository.

This project will 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, the environment including local watersheds.

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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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