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Two Ontario sites deemed 'safe' for nuclear waste: report

Nuclear Waste Management Organization eyed locations near Thunder Bay as well as near Lake Huron
2022-01-03 Nuclear power
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The northwestern Ontario site being considered for a nuclear waste repository is safe for that use, according to the industry-funded organization tasked with creating a repository.

So is the other site on the shortlist for the proposed deep geological repository, a recent news release from the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) stated.

The NWMO published updated Confidence in Safety reports that, according to a March 8 news release, “reinforce the confidence in safety of both sites.”

Ignace Township and nearby Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation are each in a “willingness process” to decide whether they would be OK with hosting a repository between their communities in the northwest. Ignace is located about halfway between Thunder Bay and Kenora. 

In southern Ontario, the municipality of South Bruce and Saugeen Ojibway Nation had also been considering whether they would be willing hosts to the repository were it sited near them.

These new reports contain more information than the safety reports the organization funded a year ago, lead author Paul Gierszewski said in a Zoom interview earlier this week.

“Now we have another year’s worth of data that’s adding more detail to that story, and it’s basically extending our confidence that these are both (safe) sites,” he said.

“And it’s important now because communities are going into a decision about whether they wish to proceed with the project in their communities or not," Gierszewski added. "So this is the technical part of the background to their decision.”

The NWMO, funded by Canada’s nuclear power producers, asserted in its March 8 news release that it’s “confident that a deep geological repository can be constructed at either site to safely and responsibly manage Canada’s used nuclear fuel for the long term.”

Both locations have geological features conducive to the safe containment of used nuclear fuel, according to the reports.

The proposed repository, to be built hundreds of metres below ground level, would be similar to one already constructed in Finland that Ignace and Wabigoon Lake residents visited last year in trips paid for by the nuclear organization.

It would be built along Revell Lake if the northwestern Ontario site is chosen, or near Lake Huron if the southern site is selected.

The site selection process started in 2010 and is supposed to conclude in the fall of 2024.

Essential criteria for site selection are that the site “has to be safe, we have to be able to transport the fuel to it, and there has to be partnership with the community,” Gierszewski said.

“And what this report says is that from a technical perspective, both sites are safe.”

Mike Stimpson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with the Thunder Bay Source. The LJI is a federally funded program.