Since 2010, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has been engaged in a process to identify a site for a deep geological repository. Site selection is a critical milestone, marking the beginning of a new series of activities, including the regulatory decision-making process.
With a project of such complexity and generational scope, we have always anticipated that we will need to adapt over the course of the process, while also keeping an eye on the long view.
Like all organizations and businesses, several provincial lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic impacted our work. In reviewing our rolling five-year implementation plan and considering the impacts of the pandemic, we have made the decision to shift the timing for site selection. We now anticipate we will identify a preferred site by fall 2024.
“We experienced a significant loss of time for face-to-face engagement and interaction, especially in communities exploring their potential to host the project,” said Lise Morton, Vice-President of Site Selection at the NWMO. “Making this small adjustment in timing also gives us and the potential host communities additional time to review and absorb new information as they consider if hosting the project aligns with their vision and priorities.”
This shift in timing is not expected to impact the overall schedule for Canada’s plan. Construction of the repository is still expected to begin in 2033, and operation of the repository is expected to begin in the early 2040s.
The NWMO has had a lot of momentum in 2022 that will continue in the year ahead. Highlights of the year to date include:
In collaboration with the potential siting area communities, we recently began rolling out findings from a series of community studies. The findings cover a wide range of topics, including employment and workforce growth, opportunities for businesses, infrastructure improvements and construction of a Centre of Expertise that will attract world-class academics from around the globe.
In June, we published the Confidence in Safety reports for each potential site. These reports reflect years of research and fieldwork. They provide detailed results that show why we are confident that both siting areas where communities are considering hosting the project can meet its rigorous safety requirements.
In May, we successfully completed a full-scale demonstration of the engineered barriers that will safely contain and isolate Canada’s used nuclear fuel in the repository.
Earlier this year, we released our revised transportation planning framework and preliminary transportation plan, which are designed to advance conversations and provide more details on how we plan to safely transport used nuclear fuel.
About the NWMO
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 20 years by a dedicated team of world-class scientists, engineers and Indigenous Knowledge Keepers 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.