The NWMO and University of Toronto Study Effects of Future Glaciers on Repository Safety
Dr. Gordan Stuhne (left) and Dr. Dick Peltier (centre) meet with the NWMO’s Eric Sykes to discuss their latest work.
When people think about climate change, they usually think about rising temperatures. But over the very long term, thousands of years in the future, the climate will eventually cool again, bringing with it the next ice age. That is why geoscientists will carefully consider the impact of past glaciers when assessing stability and safety of potential sites for Canada’s deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel.
To develop a better understanding of how the last ice age evolved, the NWMO has been working for the past 10 years with researchers in the University of Toronto’s Department of Physics. The current phase of research is headed by Drs. Dick Peltier and Gordan Stuhne.
"This work is important because glaciation represents one of the most severe changes that can occur in the Canadian landscape," notes Eric Sykes, an associate scientist at the NWMO. "In the past, large parts of Canada have been covered by ice sheets with a thickness in excess of four kilometres."
The goal is to use the university’s internationally recognized glacial systems model (GSM) to predict glacial ice sheet and permafrost history over the last 120,000 years. The predictions are tested by seeing whether they are consistent with observed geoscientific evidence from other sources.
"By using state-of-the-art GSM estimates of ice-sheet thickness and permafrost depth, we can better understand the likely impact of such conditions on the geology at potential repository depths," explains Mr. Sykes.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is a not-for-profit organization tasked with the safe, long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel inside a deep geological repository, in a manner that protects people and the environment for generations to come.
Founded in 2002, the NWMO has been guided for more than 20 years by a dedicated team of world-class scientists, engineers and Indigenous Knowledge Holders that are developing innovative and collaborative solutions for nuclear waste management. Canada’s plan will only proceed in an area with informed and willing hosts, where the municipality, First Nation and Métis communities, and others in the area are working together to implement it. The NWMO plans to select a site in 2024, and two areas remain in our site selection process: the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation-Ignace area in northwestern Ontario and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation-South Bruce area in southern Ontario.