Test drilling begins for Canadian repository

23 January 2018

Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) on 16 January completed drilling its first 1000m test hole in the Ignace area. It is one of five sites in Ontario to be investigated for siting a deep repository for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel. The test site is in the Revell Batholith rock formation some 35km west of Ignace.  

NWMO said in a statement that its research team, including geoscience, environmental, engineering and repository safety specialists, will now analyse the core samples and explore the borehole further through the coming year. Additional boreholes will be required in the future. According to NWMO, it is anticipated that the deep geological repository in the type of geology found in the Ignace area (crystalline rock) would be developed some 500 metres below ground surface.

"Completing the first borehole...marks another significant milestone in Canada's plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel," said NWMO vice-president Mahrez Ben Belfadhel. "I'm pleased to say it's been great work and collaboration from everyone involved in this learning process, particularly in Ignace and Wabigoon Lake First Nation, as well as other First Nation, Metis and municipal communities," he added.

NWMO is also conducting various studies in near four other Ontario communities involved in the site selection process, including Manitouwadge and Hornepayne. It hopes to be able to identify its preferred site by 2023. NWMO anticipates drilling three initial boreholes, one after the other. Eventually, more extensive borehole drilling may be undertaken in the location identified, together with people in the area, as a preferred potential repository site.

Identification of a site for the repository is being undertaken through a long-term process called Adaptive Phase Management, launched in 2010. The process aims to will narrow down study areas from a list of communities that registered interest. Twenty-one communities, all in Ontario or Saskatchewan, initially requested preliminary assessments. Of 11 areas selected for Phase 2 studies, five in Ontario now remain: Ignace, Hornepayne, Huron-Kinloss, Manitouwadge, and South Bruce.

The preferred site must have a suitable rock formation in an area with an informed and willing host. The project will only move forward in partnership with First Nation and Métis peoples and surrounding communities.

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