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How big a site is required?

Response

Last updated 3/13/2019

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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How was the site selection process developed?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

The process for selecting a site for the deep geological repository reflects the ideas, experience and best advice of a broad cross-section of Canadians who participated in dialogues conducted over a two-year period.

Interested individuals and organizations shared their thoughts with the NWMO on what an open, transparent, fair and inclusive process would include. We have also drawn on experiences and lessons learned from other site selection processes conducted in Canada and other countries.

About the Process

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What are the steps in the site selection process?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

The site selection process for Canada's plan has nine steps.

Step 1: The NWMO initiates a broad program to provide information, answer questions and build awareness about the project and process.

Step 2: Communities identify their interest in learning more about the project and process. An initial screening is conducted.

Step 3: Preliminary assessments determine the potential suitability of areas. Progressively more detailed feasibility studies assess geologic findings and the ability of the project to foster community well-being in the interested community and broader region.

Step 4: Detailed site evaluations are completed.

Step 5: Communities assess and demonstrate willingness to host the project.

Step 6: A preferred site is identified, and a formal agreement, established.

Step 7: An independent, formal and public process is conducted by regulatory authorities to ensure all requirements are satisfied.

Step 8: Construction and operation of an underground demonstration facility proceeds.

Step 9: Construction and operation of facility begins.

Steps in the Process

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Has the site selection process begun?

Response

Last updated 6/23/2017

We initiated the site selection process in May 2010. Only areas where communities expressed interested in learning about the project are considered.

Initially, 22 communities expressed an interest in learning more about Canada’s plan and the siting process. Currently, seven of these communities remain engaged in the process.

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 Process

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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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Which areas are currently involved in the site selection process?

Response

Last updated 1/24/2020

As part of the site selection process, the NWMO is currently engaging with two potential siting areas, including First Nation and Métis communities in the area, interested in learning more about Canada’s plan. The Township of Ignace in northwestern Ontario and the Municipality of South Bruce in southern Ontario are considered potential host areas for the project. 

As part of the site selection process, the NWMO is currently engaging with two potential siting areas, including First Nation and Métis communities in the area, interested in learning more about Canada’s plan. The Township of Ignace in northwestern Ontario, and the Municipality of South Bruce in southern Ontario are considered potential host areas for the project.
Study AreasAreas No Longer Being Studied

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How long will it take to confirm a site for the deep geological repository?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

There is no fixed timeline. The NWMO will take the time needed to do it right.

The NWMO initiated the site selection process in May 2010. Site selection includes a number of steps, and individual communities will proceed through the process at a pace and in a manner that reflects their needs and preferences, and the time needed to complete the rigorous process of confirming safety.

To guide project planning, we have made assumptions about timing associated with the work we need to complete. Our current plans anticipate we may be in a position to select a preferred site for Step 4: Detailed Site Characterization Evaluation by about 2023. We will continue to update our best understanding of possible timelines as work advances and more information becomes available.

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.

  • The preferred site will be one that can safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel, protecting people and the environment over the very long term.
  • The project must be implemented in a way that helps foster the well-being, or quality of life, in the area.
  • The project will only proceed with the involvement of the interested community, First Nation and Métis communities in the area, and surrounding communities working together to implement it.

About the Process

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Why did it take two years to develop the site selection process?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

We are committed to taking into account the views of all interested Canadians at each stage as we plan, design and implement Adaptive Phased Management. An important first step was the collaborative development of the site selection process.

In 2008, we invited interested organizations and individuals to contribute their suggestions and expectations for the principles, objectives and key elements that should guide the development of a fair and inclusive site selection process. With this input, we developed a proposed process.

Then, in 2009, we invited public review and comment on the proposed site selection process, which was published in a discussion document. The comments received enabled us to refine and finalize the process.

We believe it was important to take the time required to ensure that an appropriate process that meets the expectations of Canadians is in place to guide decision-making on a location for this important national initiative.

How It Was DevelopedImplementing the Plan

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How do you know you will be able to identify a safe site?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

There are many geologic formations in Canada that have been in place for hundreds of millions of years and have not been disturbed by seismic (earthquake) events. A good predictor of future performance is what has happened in the past.

The selection of a safe site will be based on a comprehensive set of geoscientific criteria and a thorough site evaluation process that will last seven to 10 years. The impact of seismic events is a key component of the site evaluation process. Indicators of seismicity include:

  • Seismic history and regional structural geology;
  • Signs of major faults or fractures that are visible at surface, and their size and age of formation;
  • Signs of displacement of rock along old fractures due to historic earthquakes;
  • Groundwater chemistry and indications for stability over long time; and
  • The strength of the rock.

In order to license a deep geolgoical repository, we will have to demonstrate its safety to the host community, the regulator, and other interested or potentially affected individuals and organizations.

About the ProjectSite RequirementsSafety

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How is the NWMO narrowing down the number of communities in the site selection process?

Response

Last updated 10/18/2016

The preferred site must meet robust technical requirements focused on safety. It must also be appropriate, considering the social, economic, cultural and spiritual practices and preferences of those in the area.

Initially, 22 communities expressed interest in learning about Canada's plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel. Based on early assessments and dialogues, we selected a smaller number of areas for further studies. These areas showed strong potential for meeting strict safety requirements and for the project to align with the community’s long-term vision.

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. Findings to date do not confirm suitability of any site, and no community has expressed willingness to host the project.

Study AreasAbout the Site Selection Process

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