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What facilities will be constructed?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

Canada's plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel involves its containment and isolation at a repository site. Facilities associated with the project will include:

  • A Centre of Expertise that will support the multi-year testing of the site. It will include public viewing galleries to showcase both the technology and science, and the engagement efforts that have gone into the implementation of Adaptive Phased Management;
  • A deep geological repository to contain and isolate Canada's used fuel over the long term; and
  • Surface facilities will include security, quality control laboratories, sealing materials production plants, and all the other functions required to support the safe receipt and storage of used fuel bundles. These facilities will also support the repackaging and transfer of used fuel bundles to the underground repository.

Facilities

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Where will the repository be located?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

No site has been identified yet.

Canada's long-term plan for used nuclear fuel requires that the deep geological repository be located in an area with an informed and willing host at a site that meets rigorous technical and safety criteria.

In 2010, the NWMO began a multi-year site selection process to identify a suitable location for the deep geological repository and Centre of expertise. The process is designed to ensure the site selected is safe and secure, meeting or exceeding all regulatory requirements. Only areas where communities expressed an interest in learning about the project are considered.

Over time and through increasingly detailed technical and social studies and engagement, it will become clearer which areas have the strongest potential to safely host the project.

Study AreasAbout the ProcessAbout the Project

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How big a site is required?

Response

Last updated 12/12/2017

Surface Facilities

The surface facilities require a dedicated surface area of about 650 metres by 550 metres for the main buildings and about 100 metres by 170 metres for the ventilation exhaust shaft.

The facility will also need a storage area for the excavated rock. Its location (on-site or off-site) and footprint would be determined in collaboration with the community.

Underground Facilities

Repository designs have been created for planning purposes, but may be subject to change as the project moves forward. According to these initial conceptual designs, the repository will require an underground area of about two kilometres by three kilometres (about 600 hectares or 1,480 acres).

The actual underground footprint at any particular site would depend on a number of factors, including the characteristics of the rock, the location of underground features in the rock, the final design of the repository, and the total inventory of used fuel to be managed.

Facilities

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What is the best type of rock for hosting a Deep Geological Repository?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

The international consensus is that both crystalline and sedimentary rock formations have properties that make either potentially suitable for the safe containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel. Both of these rock formations are found in Canada and Ontario where all the study areas are located.

The nine-step site selection process, with its progressively more detailed studies, will ensure the selected site is located in a suitable rock formation. The geology must meet all scientific and technical site evaluation factors for the protection of present and future generations and the environment over the long term.

Demonstrating SafetySteps in the Process

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What will you do with the excavated rock?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

The majority of the excavated rock from the repository will be stored in an excavated rock management area. A portion of the rock may also be used in backfilling and sealing operations. The remaining rock may have a public or commercial use as aggregate for construction.

The use of the excavated rock, and the size and location of the storage area, will be determined in collaboration with the community and surrounding area.

Surface Facilities

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What security plans will be in place at the repository site?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

Security at the repository site would include appropriate physical protection, such as fences and security monitoring systems. The facilities where used nuclear fuel would be handled also include physical barriers enhancing security.

We are also required to submit security plans to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission before we can obtain licences to operate the repository and transport used nuclear fuel to the facility. These security plans must meet Nuclear Security Regulations to ensure the used fuel receives adequate physical protection against any credible threat. The details of the plans will be fully developed once a site for the repository is selected. Risks and threats will continually be reassessed to make sure security measures are up-to-date and appropriate for the circumstances.

Regulatory Oversight

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Can radiation leak from the underground repository?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

Canada's plan for the long-term care of used nuclear fuel involves containing and isolating the used fuel in a deep geological repository. A multiple-barrier system of engineered and natural barriers will ensure ongoing safety to the public and workers over the long term:

  • Nuclear fuel pellet
  • Fuel element and fuel bundle
  • Used nuclear fuel container
  • Bentonite clay
  • Geosphere – host rock for the repository
Each of these barriers provides a layer of protection so that if the performance of one degrades or is compromised, other barriers will still contain and isolate the used nuclear fuel.

The regulatory review of the repository will require a number of safety assessments which look at a wide range of scenarios to ensure people and the environment are protected. "Disruptive scenarios" are conducted to test a range of hypothetical circumstances such as what is the impact of container failure at 10,000 or 60,000 years or the failure of the seals within the repository shafts.

The safety case for the project will need to demonstrate with confidence that it can be safely implemented at the site and can meet or surpass the requirements of the regulatory authorities.

Multiple-Barrier SystemSafety: Protecting People and the EnvironmentDemonstrating Safety

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Will the jobs at the repository be dangerous?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

No. We are committed to meeting or exceeding all regulatory standards and requirements for protecting the health, safety, and security of workers, the public and the environment. Safety is our number one priority.

The deep geological repository must be licensed by Canada's nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The licensing process is very detailed and covers 14 separate topics associated with safety such as radiation protection, emergency preparedness, environmental protection, and equipment fitness for service.

The CNSC assesses licence applications to ensure:

  • Safety measures are technically and scientifically sound;
  • All requirements are met; and
  • The appropriate safety systems are in place to protect workers, the public and the environment.

We will need to demonstrate that regulatory requirements in the safety areas will be met for each phase of the project before it can move ahead.

In addition to the regulations under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and other associated nuclear regulations, we will need to comply with other provincial regulations such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act to promote and provide a robust safety culture for workers.

Safety and control areas the CNSC evaluatesRegulatory Oversight

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How will used fuel be transported?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

Depending on the location of the repository site, used nuclear fuel can be transported by road, rail or water. All three modes provide for safe and secure transportation around the world.

It is expected to take several more years to complete the necessary studies to identify a preferred site and an informed and willing host. At this early stage of assessment, we are looking at road and rail access from the interim storage sites to communities that are engaged in the site selection process. The mode of used fuel transport, potential routes, and the safety and social acceptability of the transportation system will be fully addressed through engagement during the siting process and through the environmental assessment and licensing process.

Transportation of used nuclear fuel will need to meet stringent safety requirements set out by Transport Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Transportation

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How will the used fuel bundles be transferred from transportation containers to the underground containers?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

The used nuclear fuel bundles will arrive at the used fuel packaging plant (UFPP) in transportation containers. The UFPP will be designed to receive and repackage used nuclear fuel into long-lived, corrosion-resistant used fuel containers (UFCs) for placement in the repository.

Fuel bundles will be transferred from transportation containers into UFCs using remote-controlled equipment in protected areas called "hot cells". Workers will work behind shielded walls to perform the various processing steps necessary for fuel transfer, and UFC assembly and inspection.

Shielded frames on automated guide vehicles will move the used fuel containers within the packaging plant to the various processing stations. These processing stations include:

  • A closure weld station to seal the lid to the used fuel container;
  • A weld machining station to machine the weld area smooth on the container;
  • A weld inspection station;
  • A copper cold spray station to apply copper over the closure weld;
  • A copper coating inspection station; and
  • A non-destructive testing station to ensure the requirements of the container are met for placement in the repository.

Once the containers have been inspected to ensure they do not have any unacceptable defects or features, they are moved to a storage cell for filled containers before going to a dispatch hall for transfer to the repository. 

TransportationSurface FacilitiesSafe Containment

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