Potential siting areas are identified and assessed in a series of steps that began when communities formally expressed interest in learning more. Each step is designed to evaluate the area in greater detail than the step before. An area may be found to be unsuitable at any stage of evaluation, at which point it would no longer be considered.
To be considered in the site selection process, areas in interested communities or their vicinity had to meet a minimum set of criteria. These criteria were applied in an initial screening conducted in Step 2: Initial Screening of the site selection process.
Initial screening criteria
- The site must have available land of sufficient size to accommodate the surface and underground facilities.
- This available land must be outside protected areas, heritage sites, provincial parks, and national parks.
- This available land must not contain known groundwater resources at the repository depth that could be used for drinking, agriculture, or industrial uses, so that the repository site is unlikely to be disturbed by future generations.
- This available land must not contain economically exploitable natural resources as known today, so that the repository site is unlikely to be disturbed by future generations.
- This available land must not be located in areas with known geological and hydrogeological characteristics that would prevent the site from being safe.
More detailed evaluation
With continued support from interested communities, areas that met these initial criteria are now being subject to progressively more detailed evaluation. This evaluation is conducted with two primary areas of focus:
- First, the preferred site will be one that can be demonstrated to be able to safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel, protecting humans and the environment over the very long term.
- Second, the preferred site will be located in an area where the project can be implemented in a way that fosters the well-being, or quality of life, of the local community and region.
Safety and security is the top priority in implementing Canada's plan for managing used nuclear fuel over the long term. Any site that is selected to host the project must satisfy six safety functions:
- Safe containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel. The characteristics of the rock at the site must be appropriate to ensure long-term containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel from humans, the environment, and surface disturbances caused by human activities and natural events.
- Long-term resilience to future geological processes and climate change. The rock formation at the siting area must be geologically stable and likely to remain stable over the very long term in a manner that will ensure the repository will not be substantially affected by geological and climate change processes such as earthquakes and glacial cycles.
- Safe construction, operation and closure of the repository. Conditions at the site must be suitable for the safe construction, operation, and ultimate closure of the repository.
- Isolation of used fuel from future human activities. Human intrusion such as future exploration or mining must be unlikely.
- Amenability to site characterization and data interpretation activities. The geologic conditions at the site must be amenable to being practically studied and described on dimensions that are important for demonstrating long-term safety.
- Safe transportation. The site must have a route that exists or is amenable to being created that enables the safe and secure transportation of used fuel from interim storage sites to the repository site.
These safety functions must be addressed through the development of a robust safety case. The safety case will also need to demonstrate that the project can meet or surpass the requirements of regulatory authorities.