Only one Northern community still in the running for nuclear waste site

Nuclear Waste Management Organization

Other site is located on the shores of Lake Huron

TORONTO – And then there were two. The competition for the location of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO)’s spent nuclear fuel rod storage site, a deep geological repository (DGR), is expected to take a few more years, but the two municipalities still in the race are Ignace in Northern Ontario and Huron-Bruce.

NWMO representatives note that the process takes a considerable amount of time due to the number of studies of both a technical and social nature that have to be completed.

A previous plan to store the spent fuel rods at the Huron-Bruce location near the nuclear plant a scant few kilometres from the shores of Lake Huron was derailed by the courts due to the lack of consultation and an impetus to find a willing host for the facility. There were as many as 11 municipalities that expressed an interest in hosting the facility, each of which received a significant amount of funds for community development.

A final decision on the location of the nuclear fuel rod storage facility is expected sometime in 2023.

In addition to the immediate locations for the DGR, communities in a broader area around those municipalities being considered also being courted to be onside with the project. The NWMO is actively engaged in public relations and education programs aimed at building community support for the DGR, given that such support enters into the equation when selecting the final site.

Opposition to locating the DGR at the Lake Huron site has raised the ire of a number of environmental groups and major Indigenous organizations and First Nations, including the Anishinabek Nation.

The site selection process is expected to create up to 95 local jobs, with up to 1,000 jobs in Ontario. Site construction is expected to require 800 local jobs and ongoing operations will see as many as 700 jobs created at the facility and ancillary operations. Extended monitoring over 70 years will see some 170 local jobs created, while decommissioning the DGR will create another 250 jobs.

The DGR will cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $24 billion.

The proposed facility is “temporary” and not expected to last the many thousands of years that the fuel bundles stored there will; unlike another storage facility for low-level waste that will be enclosed for millennia, the fuel rod DGR is designed to enable retrieval of the fuel at some point in the future when technology makes it viable to commercially recover the energy remaining in the fuel.

A long term storage facility site for low and intermediate level nuclear waste, located near the Bruce Nuclear plant about 1.2 kilometres from the shores of Lake Huron, has received federal approval and is just awaiting the results of a referendum on the proposal by the 5,000 member Saugeen Ojibwe Nation. The band was to vote this month, but the vote has been delayed until January 2020. No reason for the delay has been cited. The NWMO has said they will not proceed without the approval of the First Nation.

This low and intermediate level nuclear waste DGR would store 200,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste 680 metres below the ground.

Nearly 60 percent of Ontario’s power is currently supplied by nuclear reactors.