Canada’s Deep Geological Repository For Used Nuclear Fuel –The Geoscientific Site Evaluation Process

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Sarah Hirschorn, Mahrez Ben Belfadhel, Alec Blyth, Aaron J DesRoches, Jennifer R M McKelvie, Andrew Parmenter, Maria Sanchez-Rico Castejon, Andres Urrutia-Bustos and Andre Vorauer, Nuclear Waste Management Organization, Toronto, ON, Canada
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is responsible for implementing Adaptive Phased Management, the approach selected by the Government of Canada for long-term management of used nuclear fuel generated by Canadian nuclear reactors. In May 2010, the NWMO published and initiated a nine-step site selection process to find an informed and willing community to host a deep geological repository for Canada’s used nuclear fuel. The site selection process is designed to address a broad range of technical and social, economic and cultural factors. The suitability of candidate areas will be assessed in a stepwise manner over a period of many years and include three main steps: Initial Screenings; Preliminary Assessments; and Detailed Site Characterizations.

The Preliminary Assessment is conducted in two phases. NWMO has completed Phase 1 preliminary assessments for the first eight communities that entered into this step. While the Phase 1 desktop geoscientific assessments showed that each of the eight communities contains general areas that have the potential to satisfy the geoscientific safety requirements for hosting a deep geological repository, the assessment identified varying degrees of geoscientific complexity and uncertainty between communities, reflecting their different geological settings and structural histories. Phase 2 activities will include a sequence of high-resolution airborne geophysical surveys and focused geological field mapping to ground-truth lithology and structural features, followed by limited deep borehole drilling and testing. These activities will further evaluate the site’s ability to meet the safety functions that a site would need to ultimately satisfy in order to be considered suitable. This paper provides an update on the site evaluation process and describes the approach, methods and criteria that are being used to conduct the geoscientific Preliminary Assessments.