Process for Selecting a Site for Canada’s Deep Geological Repository for Used Nuclear Fuel
33rd Annual CNS Conference - 2012 June 10-13

Presented at:
33rd Annual CNS Conference
2012 June 10-13
Saskatoon, Canada
Session Title:
NWMO Panel

J. Facella (Nuclear Waste Management Organization)
M. Ben Belfadhel (Nuclear Waste Management Organization)
P. Patton (Nuclear Waste Management Organization)


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 waste generated by Canadian nuclear reactors. The ultimate objective of Adaptive Phased Management is the centralized containment and isolation of Canada’s used nuclear fuel in a Deep Geological Repository in a suitable crystalline or sedimentary rock formation at a depth of about 500m. The repository will consist of a series of access and service shafts and a series of tunnels leading to placement rooms where used fuel will be placed and sealed in competent rock using a multi-barrier system which includes long lived specially designed containers, sealing materials such as bentonite and the rock itself. The used fuel will be monitored throughout all phases of implementation and will also remain retrievable for an extended period of time. In May 2010, the NWMO published the site selection process that serves as the road map to decision-making on the location for the deep geological repository. NWMO initiated the process with a first stage that invites communities to learn more about the project and the site selection process. NWMO is actively building awareness of the project and, on request of communities, is delivering briefings, supporting community capacity building and undertaking screenings of site suitability. This panel presentation provides a brief description of: Adaptive Phased Management including the deep geological repository which is its ultimate goal, and the design of the site selection process, and importantly the approach to assessing the suitability of sites from both a social and technical perspective. The panel presentation will be conducted in three parts: site selection process and engagement, Aboriginal engagement and Technical evaluations, followed by a discussion. The presentation will outline how NWMO sought to develop a socially-acceptable site selection process as a firm foundation for future decisions on siting. Through a two-year collaborative process, NWMO sought to understand the expectations of Canadians concerning key principles and elements of a fair and acceptable site selection process, and the experiences and lessons learned in siting large projects internationally. The interests and concerns of Aboriginal peoples are integral to development and implementation of Canada’s plans for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel. The organization has worked with Aboriginal organizations and individuals to develop long-term engagement and dialogue processes that respect traditional Aboriginal practices, culture, protocols and approaches to decision-making.  The presentation will discuss NWMO’s approach in engaging Aboriginal peoples and will highlight the requirements identified by citizens, and outline the goals and principles associated with the site selection process that emerged from the process of collaboration. NWMO will share its observations based on the lessons learned to date as the organization implements this community-driven site selection process. NWMO will reflect on challenges and opportunities encountered as the journey unfolds.

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