Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) said it now anticipates that it will identify a preferred site by autumn 2024. NWMO has been engaged in a process to identify a site for a deep geological repository since 2012. “Site selection is a critical milestone, marking the beginning of a new series of activities, including the regulatory decision-making process,” it said. “With a project of such complexity and generational scope, we have always anticipated that we will need to adapt over the course of the process, while also keeping an eye on the long view.”

NWMO noted that several provincial lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic impacted its work. “In reviewing our rolling five-year implementation plan and considering the impacts of the pandemic, we have made the decision to shift the timing for site selection. We now anticipate we will identify a preferred site by fall 2024.”

Lise Morton, Vice-President of Site Selection at NWMO, said: “We experienced a significant loss of time for face-to-face engagement and interaction, especially in communities exploring their potential to host the project. Making this small adjustment in timing also gives us and the potential host communities additional time to review and absorb new information as they consider if hosting the project aligns with their vision and priorities.”

NWMO said the shift in timing is not expected to impact the overall schedule for Canada’s plan. Construction of the repository is still expected to begin in 2033, and operation of the repository is expected to begin in the early 2040s.

Momentum achieved in 2022 will continue in the year ahead, NWMO affirmed. Highlights of the year to date include:

  • A series of community studies in collaboration with the potential siting area communities covering a wide range of topics, including employment and workforce growth, opportunities for businesses, infrastructure improvements and construction of a Centre of Expertise.
  • Publication in June of Confidence in Safety reports for each potential site based on years of research and fieldwork.
  • Completion in May of a full-scale demonstration of the engineered barriers that will safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel in the repository.
  • Release of a revised transportation planning framework and preliminary transportation plan designed to advance conversations and provide more details on plans to safely transport used nuclear fuel.