Three local communities will see extensive evaluations for long-term nuclear fuel storage in 2016 and beyond.

The sedimentary rock layers of Bruce and Huron counties are being researched as an option to contain the radioactivity by Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), with Bruce County’s Huron-Kinloss, South Bruce and Huron County’s Central Huron in the running as they enter the ‘Initial Screening’ during Step 2 of the 9-step process. [CORRECTION:

Practical, site testing and evaluation are planned in the coming months and years of the investigation in the region, alongside other Canadian communities in the running.

Like many other nuclear-powered nations, Canada has chosen a scientific-based path to deal with its growing used fuel stockpile and southern Bruce and Huron counties are a part of that research under both a national, and international microscope.

NWMO’s Paul Austin said communicating the safety case to the public is the biggest challenge, from the geological science, environmental protection, project design and engineering to transportation of nuclear waste.

“All these features need to be brought together so we can make a solid safety case,” said Austin, who worked as a journalist for most of his career.

Both Austin and Marie Wilson, another former journalist and nuclear waste consultant, staff the NWMO’s ‘Learn More’ centres from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Ripley (Huron-Kinloss Wed-Fri), Teeswater (South Bruce Tues-Wed) and Clinton (Central Huron Mon-Wed) to provide information through interactive displays, information boards and individual/group presentations. They both welcome invitations to present their information, and are planning presentations as the year progresses, he said, with events like the 2015 Ripley Reunion demonstrated as a “busy time” for them to share their knowledge of the project.

They plan to expand their outreach even further in 2016. Austin said they want the public to get involved, ask questions and create an ongoing conversation to help the process evolve over time through social input. Regardless of the level of knowledge a person has on the topic, NWMO seeks to educate and inform through both visual means and literature they provide.

Communicating the plan for safe transportation of used fuel has both garnered attention, and been a focus of communication by the NWMO. The organization, independent of the nuclear industry, continues to provide details about its technology and plans to the public via open houses, group presentations, or scheduled visits to the Learn More centres.

Five other communities in Ontario remain of the original 21 communities that volunteered, with 13 dismissed from the process due to factors ranging from location, to geology, to community support. Others still involved in northern Ontario include include the areas of Blind River/Elliot Lake, Hornepayne, Ignace, Manitouage and White River.

Austin said bore hole drilling is a possibility for each of the communities, along with sonar-like technology that can outline the geologic conditions in the region far better than what can be done in the Canadian Shield in the north.

“If people see (test drill) rigs in their communities in 2016-2017, don’t come to the conclusion the site has been picked,” said Austin, who emphasized a final site selection is years of consultation and research away.

The new information will help lead the NWMO closer to a conclusion though, as it will be paired with data currently available from oil and gas exploration, and bore holes from Ontario Power Generation’s low and intermediate nuclear waste deep geologic repository (OPG DGR) currently awaiting federal construction approval. Additional bore holes from new field studies would help confirm the consistency of the geologic conditions, as they change across the landscape.

“Some info is available, but we have to be careful what we think we know is true,” Austin said of the geology. “New field studies would be helpful and add a voice to our technology, so we can better understand and engage people.”

Even if the three sites don’t pass the next phase of research, for whatever reason, the information gathered will be added to Canada’s mandated plan for the long-term management of nuclear fuel, an underground repository, chosen by the public through extensive research and consultation.

Austin said the federal decision on the OPG DGR for low and intermediate nuclear waste at the Bruce nuclear site will play a role in decision-making, (as it excludes nuclear fuel under order of a binding OPG-Municipality of Kincardine agreement.)

The NWMO’s plan is constantly changing due to technological and social changes, as it was designed. The Canadian organization is on par with other nations involved in an ‘active site selection process’ including the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Russia, China, India and Japan, which have all choses geological repositories as their option for long-term used fuel management.

Austin said Finland is the furthest along in the world so far, having received its construction license for a nuclear fuel repository under the ocean, on Nov. 12, 2015. Sweden as also selected a site and in implementing the process through nuclear regulators, and France is moving ahead with a site as well.

“We’re not alone,” said Austin, who said each nuclear nation is sharing its research on nuclear repositories, so all can be on equal ground in finding a nuclear waste solution. “There is no competitive edge.”

The United States, Mexico, Brazil, Netherlands, Ukraine, Italy and Korea have decided to build a DGR as their option, but are currently not in process.

Nuclear-powered nations Belgium, Spain, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and Pakistan have yet to make a decision on their nuclear waste direction.

Since 2011 the European Commission has asked member states to conduct reports on when, where and how it will construct and manage repositories, which were to be implemented in 2015.

Most recently Canada selected a new design for used nuclear fuel bundles to be copper-encased, and sealed within ‘radiation trapping’ bentonite clay layers to be filled within constructed underground corridors. Austin said the technology would allow any Canadian community that is selected the ability to construct the technologies needed, on-site, creating jobs and preventing additional transportation costs.

A ‘Centre of Excellence’ will be part of the discussion for the community that is selected, as it would become a facility employing techological and social research demostration programs, along with scientific research, engineering, geoscience, environmental, economic and cultural impact assessment of the so-called ‘Adaptive Phased Management (APM) program chosen to move forward as Canada’s used nuclear fuel solution. It could also act as a training centre to help employ and retain local residents that could number at about 700 jobs over multiple generations.

“We could built the plant in Huron-Kinloss, or wherever, because Canada has the technology and resources to build these (nuclear fuel storage vessels),” Austin said. “We need to know what that’s going to mean to these communities. It’s a collaboration and we’re relying on input from citizens.”

Lengthy discussions are still to be had on the social, economic and environmental impacts such a project could have over the thousands of years the waste remains radioactive. This is also an ongoing point of contention for opponents of nuclear waste storage in the Great Lakes basic, which the NWMO address as part their ongoing community outreach.

“There’s an awful lot of information, so it’s important that we’re good communicators,” he said.

Canada has over 2.6 million fuel bundles in wet and dry storage, the majority at the OPG Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF) at the Bruce nuclear site (1.1 million). Others are located on site at Pickering and Darlington sites in Ontario, Gentilly in Quebec, Point Lepreau in New Brunswick, and Atomic Energy of Canada sites in Whiteshell, Manitoba, Chalk River, Ontario the historic Douglas Point site, also in Bruce County.

For more information call 519-386-6711 or visit

By Troy Patterson, Kincardine News and Lucknow Sentinel,Wednesday, January 20, 2016 11:53:39 EST AM, as posted at