North Shore communities still in the hunt as sites for nuclear waste disposal

TORONTO—Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), the group charged with finding a willing almost-forever home for the nuclear waste from Canada’s reactor fleet, has ruled out Creighton, Saskatchewan and Schreiber, Ontario as potential communities to host the controversial site.

According to a recent announcement from the NWMO, new geological studies in the vicinity of Creighton and Schreiber have “revealed that areas assessed near both communities have geological complexities that reduce the likelihood of finding a suitable site for either area to safely host a used nuclear fuel repository.”

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) was established in 2002, in accordance with the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act, to assume responsibility for long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel. The selected approach for the long-term management of used fuel is referred to as Adaptive Phased Management.

Nuclear waste is currently stored in temporary holding facilities adjacent to nuclear power plants. An earlier attempt to build long-term storage facilities came to naught when it was determined that the process had not placed enough weight on finding a willing host for the facility. In the aftermath of that failure, the NWMO embarked on an in-depth process that centres on locating a community that is willing to host the facility. There were 22 communities that had expressed interest, of which six are in Northern Ontario. Those communities included the City of Elliot Lake, Town of Blind River and Townships of Manitouwadge and White River, which were assessed as having strong potential to meet site selection requirements and were identified for further study, while the Town of Spanish and Township of the North Shore were not selected to be the focus of more detailed study.

“We have collected and interpreted new data using high-resolution airborne geophysical surveys and geological field mapping, which provided a deeper understanding of the geology in these areas,” said Dr. Mahrez Ben Belfadhel, director of Geoscientific Site Evaluations at the NWMO, in a news release.

“These latest studies show there is limited potential in the areas of Creighton or Schreiber to find a repository site that would meet the safety requirements of the project.”

“The NWMO is grateful for the opportunity to work and learn with the people of Creighton and Schreiber,” said Kathryn Shaver, vice president of APM Engagement and Site Selection. “These communities should be proud of all they’ve done to help advance this important national infrastructure project.”

The news that Schreiber had fallen off the list came as a shock to Schreiber Mayor Mark Figliomeni. “My initial reaction was I was a bit caught off-guard by the announcement, but certainly was aware that this possibly could be the end result,” said Mayor Figliomeni in media reports, adding that although he was shocked he was not surprised.

The community of Schreiber had received $800,000 over the past four years as part of the “Learn More” process. The mayor admitted that Schreiber had become accustomed to the inflow of cash from the NWMO and would now scramble to find ways to offset the loss of those funds. Mayor Figliomeni noted that the community was very far away from the decision on whether to host the site, but admitted that the potential had divided the community.

Preliminary assessments are the third of nine steps in the multi-year process for evaluating the potential suitability of communities to host a deep geological repository and an associated centre of expertise. Studies and engagement associated with this step are still ongoing in areas in or near nine Ontario communities which included Blind River, Central Huron, Elliot Lake, Hornepayne, Huron-Kinloss, Ignace, Manitouwadge, South Bruce and White River.