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New safety report updates NWMO site search

By Adam Riley Mar 16, 2024 | 7:00 AM

File Photo (Adam Riley / Acadia Broadcasting)

Improved data has identified a preferred depth range of just over half a kilometre underground for a nuclear waste storage site west of Ignace.

The data comes from a new Confidence in Safety report from the Nuclear Waste Management Organization released in December of 2023, updating a similar report released in the previous year.

The report’s author, Paul Gierszewski, is a strategic advisor with the NWMO and has a background in the field of nuclear engineering before switching to waste management 25 years ago.

He says the updated data set has helped solidify some of the variables for the project.

“We didn’t have a precise value before and now we’ve got enough information to say where it is in this rock, and that’s a combination of various things. There’s chemistry that supports it, there’s information on the hydrology properties of the rock.”

Additionally, the design of both the above and below ground layouts of the facility have been updated with the new data, but Gierszewski says that could further change with more reviews and data expected to come.

Also included in the report was the first site specific safety assessment, which serves a number of purposes according to Gierszewski.

“Partly as a test of the site to see if the site looks good, and at this stage we’re doing it to say ‘Well how do I really want to optimize the design, because there is an opportunity here to address these things.”

So far Gierszewski says the NWMO is a bit conservative when it comes to where things are going, they have a design and a concept they wish to move forward with, one that has been tested and is being used internationally.

The search for a suitable site, along with a willing host community, has been an endeavor for over a decade now with multiple sites across Ontario now whittled down to just two, Ignace and South Bruce.