Public safety or cost savings? DGR Design Questions (January 2013)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 11:12:55 EST AM

Editor:

I feel that the Nuclear Waste Management Organization has been reluctant in exposing some of the dangers associated with their design for their proposed deep geological repository. After reading many articles from the NWMO website, in an effort to learn more and become informed, some alarming facts have come to light that I will briefly describe.

Since 2008 the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has commissioned an  Independent Technical Review Group (ITRG)  consisting of nuclear experts from Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Canada. The role of the ITRG is to respond to the NWMO’s technical program and make recommendations for improvement and change.

Unfortunately, since 2008, the ITRG reports have been buried deep in the NWMO’s website along with documents about risks and dangers involving a DGR.

The current NWMO DGR design includes an underground cavern with an area of 930 acres at a depth of 500 metres below the surface.  The NWMO plan has always been to create a major shaft using a hoist system to bring people, tonnes of explosives, massive mining machinery and the  hundreds of thousands of tonnes of highly radioactive waste to cavern depth as well as to bring  excavated rock from the cavern to the surface.  And up to one hundred years after burial of radioactive used fuel containers, NWMO would rely on the hoist system to raise the dangerous used fuel for possible repackaging or reprocessing.

In its 2011 report, the Independent Technical Review Group stated that “a payload of 75 metric tons would be required to be lowered down the shaft.  There is no precedent for handling a payload of this magnitude in a vertical shaft.”

They go on to say that radiological safety could be compromised in the event of a dropped container for which “the programme risk is considerable given the likely requirements for clean-up of dispersed materials and retrieval of a damaged container and its contents. Therefore very high reliability of handling at least 10,000 heavy payloads in a vertical shaft would have to be ensured, which may be beyond conventional mining practice.”

Given the concerns of these highly recognized experts, NWMO should not be exposing citizens of our town to decades of known health and safety risks.

“The ITRG further recommends that NWMO should give careful consideration to the option of using an inclined ramp to transfer used fuel to the repository horizon…” in order to avoid a dropped load accident.

While these recommendations are in line with the standard ramp design planned for the Sweden and Finland DGR’s, it would substantially increase the area  of land required to carry out the project and greatly increase the construction and operational cost of a DGR.

Because of the above information,  I believe that the NWMO and possibly our town council have some questions to answer before further agreements can be made between the town and NWMO.

Would an inclined ramp design through several layers of sedimentary rock be sufficiently stable or would it risk a collapse during and post construction?

Would an inclined ramp system increase the surface water flow into the DGR jeopardizing the presumably dry limestone at the repository level during and post-construction?

Will NWMO follow the ITRG recommendation and change its design before asking municipalities to continue with there siting process? As of yet, they have not done so.

Should smaller communities such as Saugeen Shores be eliminated from the siting process based on the additional land requirements for an inclined ramp system?

Will the Mayor and town council members hold NWMO accountable for yet another failure to be open and honest with the citizens of this town?

When will NWMO be honest, transparent and clear when communicating with all communities about the risks and costs involved with their proposed DGR project?


Patrick Gibbons
Saugeen Shores  

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