Image the proposed site for a deep geological repository in South Bruce (credit; NWMO)Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organisation (NWMO) has released a map showing the potential deep geological repository site in South Bruce after signing more agreements with land owners to secure more than1500 acres of land.

NWMO also outlined next steps to confirm safety at the site, and made a commitment to protect property values in the area if it is selected to host a repository. South Bruce is one of two potential hosts in the site selection process for a deep geological repository for Canada’s used nuclear fuel; the assessment process is also underway in the area around Ignace, Ontario.

Earlier this year, NWMO announced that it had signed agreements with landowners in South Bruce for 1300 acres. Since then, the NWMO has secured just over 1500 acres north of Teeswater, Ontario. The agreements include a combination of option and purchase arrangements that allow the NWMO to conduct studies while allowing landowners to continue using the land.

“This is an important milestone in South Bruce, and an expression of confidence in the project. We are thankful for the continued interest in our land access process, and know there is much more to do as we work toward assessing the potential suitability of the site,” said Dr Mahrez Ben Belfadhel, Vice-President of Site Selection at the NWMO.

The milestone will allow important site assessment work to continue as the NWMO moves to identify a single, preferred location for a deep geological repository. “We will begin preparatory work for two exploratory boreholes in the near-term, and expect to begin drilling the first in April, 2021. Discussions with local landowners in the vicinity of the potential site will continue over the coming months and years,” said Dr Belfadhel.

Technical site evaluations, such as borehole drilling and environmental baseline monitoring, are key next steps for the site. At the same time, the NWMO will continue to seek input and address questions from residents through open houses, exhibits, meetings and other engagement activities.

Of the total potential repository site, the NWMO requires 250 acres for facilities on the surface. The specific location of these facilities on the site has not yet been determined. The remainder will continue to be used as it is currently. “A key part of the agreements with local land owners is to support local economic activity by ensuring farming will continue to be the primary economic activity on the site,” said Dr Belfadhel. “We’re committed to protecting the environment and farmland, while also minimising disruption to local businesses.”

As part of the land access process, the NWMO committed to develop, in consultation with the municipality of South Bruce, a programme to compensate property owners if property values are adversely affected by the project. This property value protection program will be developed as part of a series of well-being studies that the NWMO plans to complete with the involvement of the community in 2021.

NWMO is now beginning to plan for two exploratory boreholes to confirm understanding of geology at the site. Site preparation activities for boreholes will occur this fall so drilling can begin in 2021.  NWMO will test private water wells at and near the borehole sites.

NWMO is also planning additional field activities in 2021 to further characterise the geology. These include:

  • employing microseismic monitoring stations across the region to monitor for natural or manmade seismological shifts, such as earthquakes or the effects of borehole or well drilling;
  • installing shallow groundwater monitoring wells to study the hydrogeology of the area; and
  • conducting geophysical studies in the area to assess the suitability of the area to host a repository.

Similar studies are also continuing in the area of Ignace, in northwestern Ontario, where the other potential repository site is located. NWMO expects to identify a single, preferred site to host the project, in an area with informed and willing hosts, by 2023.

Photo: The proposed site for a deep geological repository in South Bruce (credit; NWMO)