Glimpse Into Changing NWMO Plans at Conference Attended by Regional Representatives (September 2016)

OTTAWA, ON – For north of Superior communities involved in the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s “Learn More” program, revisions to the design and layout of the NWMO’s nuclear waste burial plans might mean it’s more a case of “learn again” as the NWMO rolls out a substantially revised version of their “reference plan” for nuclear waste burial.

Edited [There are 6 Northern Ontario municipalities, in the
vicinity of areas being considered by the NWMO’s site selection
process, at various stages of the NWMO’s “Learn More” program.
As part of the “Learn More” program.]
Participating municipalities were invited by the NWMO to send three delegates to the Canadian Nuclear Society’s conference on nuclear waste management and decommissioning this week (Sept.11-14) in Ottawa.

Members of municipal councils and Community Liaison Committees were among the approximately 300 people attending the national conference, including several delegates from White River, Hornepayne and Manitouwadge. There were also a number of delegates from communities no longer in, or not having participated in, the site selection “Learn More” process including city councilors from North Bay, Dryden and Kincardine as well as representatives from a few First Nation communities.

Though Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha had been scheduled to speak a conflict was said to make that impossible, subsequently, Mr.Mantha provided taped answers to questions from the NWMO. Photo B.Lloyd
Though Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha had been scheduled to speak a conflict was said to make that impossible, subsequently, Mr.Mantha provided taped answers to questions from the NWMO. Photo B.Lloyd
A series of presentations by NWMO staff or consultants outlined some fundamental changes to the NWMO project design, including significantly different radioactive waste containers and underground layout.

The “Adaptive Phased Management” plan, crafted to meet a 2005 reporting deadline to the federal government, was detailed in a 594 page report in 2012 describing a “reference plan” for a deep geological repository in the crystalline rock of the Canadian shield (this was followed by a report in 2013 covering the same subjects for a hypothetical repository in the sedimentary rocks found in the area surrounding the Bruce nuclear generating station in southwestern Ontario).

Project descriptions from 2005 to 2015 for a potential repository in the Canadian Shield depicted a flat-topped cylindrically shaped used fuel container that would be placed either vertically in the floor of a room carved out of rock deep underground or horizontally in the room itself. In late 2015, project descriptions began to replace the images of the waste container with one of a sphere-topped container placed in a large box filled with buffering materials. Dubbed “Mark II” by the NWMO technical staff, the revised fuel container design features a steel vessel that is copper coated and welded shut.

Northwatch spokesperson Kathleen Brosemer acknowledges that project evolution is not unexpected, given both the thirty year timeline between the 2005 plan’s release and the earliest possible construction dates, plus the very conceptual nature of the NWMO’s “Adaptive Phased Management Plan”.

“We’ve no problem with continued research on ways to isolate nuclear waste over very long periods of time, given all the uncertainties associated with geological disposal concepts. And at first introduction the revised fuel container designer looks like it might have some actual advantages over the 2005 version of the NWMO’s used fuel container,” commented Brosemer from her office in Sault Ste. Marie.

“What we do take issue with is the way the NWMO presents their ideas. For the last ten years the NWMO has been touting the safety of their plan, with project descriptions that depicted a fuel container of a certain design and a message that said ‘we know how to do this’. Now they say they know how to do it, but it’s different than the way they knew how to do it a few years ago. Especially for people living with the prospect of a nuclear waste burial facility, this makes the story harder to follow than it needs to be”.

A second and potentially even more significant shift in the NWMO plan is in the potential layout of the underground repository. For ten years, all NWMO project descriptions have been based on a single “compact” block layout, estimated to result in an underground footprint that is two kilometres by three kilometers. The NWMO’s predecessor plan by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited had a similar layout.

In the last day of technical sessions at the Ottawa conference, a new approach was outlined, generically titled by the consultant who developed it for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization as “Adaptive Deep Geologic Repository Layout”.

It signifies a huge shift: instead of situating the underground repository in a single rock formation, the notion of “adaptive layout” introduces the idea that a repository design could “bridge across fractures”.

As the workshop abstract explains, “Canadian layouts to date have assumed that a large enough homogeneous and isotropic domain (block) of rock will be available to host the repository”, but decades of research has yet to identify such a rock formation.

Perhaps in light of the NWMO’s current geological research or possibly just hedging their bets against an ongoing failure to find that elusive rock formation, the NWMO now appears to be on the brink of giving up the fundamental concept of geological repositories, i.e. that a single rock formation can be engineered to provide a barrier to the release of radioactive waste.

Asked about the changed designs for both the containers and underground layout, and how such major project design shifts get communicated through the NWMO’s “Learn More” program to residents in North Shore communities, Hornepayne Mayor Morley Forster responded that “the communication we have is that it’s a multi-discipline and international program and there’s a lot of peer review.”

Mayor Forster sees the value in his attending conferences like the one in Ottawa this week is in being able to report to his constituents that “Canada is not doing this alone”. Forester elaborated “If we were to say that we were doing it all by ourselves and nobody else was looking at it we wouldn’t be able to say with confidence that we were doing it right”.

September 16, 2016, as posted at

Nuclear waste transportation flagged as a possible issue for North Bay

Bay Today | September 16 | It is a controversial proposal that has been debated in several countries over a period of decades, including in Canada, where a previous proposal to bury the wastes in the Canadian Shield failed to gain approval after a lengthy review in the 1990s.

It’s always a controversial topic and it’s headed our way.

But North Bay City Councillor Mac Bain is confident that safety is top of mind as far as the transportation of nuclear material through North Bay is concerned.

Bain was one of 300 participants at a national conference on nuclear waste management this week in Ottawa. He represents the City on the board of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, and as a FONOM representative, he has been on the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s (NWMO) “Municipal Forum” for the past several years.

There are plans to construct a burial facility for Canada’s nuclear fuel waste after a site has been decided.

“Of the nine communities that have put their name forward and have still not been eliminated as the location for the deep geological repository, most of them are in northern Ontario,” Bain told BayToday. “NWMO hasn’t determined which route they are going to go until they’ve narrowed down the location.”

Asked what about the NWMO’s program he would flag as being an issue of particular potential interest to his colleagues on North Bay’s City Council, Bain said it would be transportation.

“As this project moves along they are going to have to transport the spent nuclear fuel from one community to another. If it is to a location in northern Ontario there is going to be the possibility of nuclear waste going through the City of North Bay. We are going to have to possibly find a way of informing our public”, Bain explained.

Transportation could be by boat, rail or road, depending on the location and at that time talks will take place with first responders and the municipalities that might be affected by the route so that in the event of an accident people would know what to do, according to Bain.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is an association of the provincial utilities from Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick who have generated over 62,000 tonnes of high-level radioactive waste through the operation of nuclear reactors for electricity production. Established in 2002, the NWMO proposed to the federal government in 2005 that they be mandated to proceed in the development of a burial facility for Canada’s nuclear fuel waste. Under their 2005 plan, the NWMO would conduct a siting process, and then complete designs, construct, operate and close the facility over a period of up to 300 years.

“The containers are quite safe,” says Bain. “They are recognized internationally as being the safest and the transport truck that has been designed to carry the spent nuclear fuel has been to all the host communities and even North Bay, and is quite robust and secure.”

The equipment will be on display in North Bay during a FONOM conference being held here next May.

Brennain Lloyd, a project coordinator with the regional environmental group Northwatch, also attended the conference, and has a different take on Mac Bain’s transportation message.

“For communities like North Bay and Sudbury transportation would certainly be a concern, not only because of the potential for accidents, but also because of the exposure during normal transportation for people along the route”, Lloyd explained.

“The NWMO had a transportation package designed by Ontario Hydro back in the 1980’s re-certified a few years ago by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, but that’s not much of an assurance. Towing around a mock-up of the truck is also pretty limited in terms of what it can tell us about the real risks associated with transportation, or how willing we should be to accept those risks.”

“North Bay at this time doesn’t need to be making any determination about what we need to be doing,” added Bain. “There may be nuclear materials being transported weekly through North Bay now and the emergency responders are aware of that.

“North Bay already is a nuclear community because we do have nuclear medicine at the hospital so we’re not a nuclear free zone.”

Lloyd noted that comparing medical isotopes to radioactive waste is “a game of comparing apples to arrows”.

“Nuclear medicine uses single and short-lived isotopes. Nuclear fuel waste includes hundreds of different radioactive isotopes, some of them very short-lived but others persist for tens of thousands of years, and some of them for millions of years and beyond. That’s the key issue in the controversy – how can these wastes be contained into eternity?”

The burying of nuclear waste is a controversial proposal that has been debated in several countries over a period of decades, including in Canada, where a previous proposal to bury the wastes in the Canadian Shield failed to gain approval after a lengthy review in the 1990s. Several countries have research programs underway with a “deep geological repository’ as their end goal, but others have shelved that approach and opted for long term storage.

Bain has toured many nuclear facilities in Canada.

“I’m quite confident the nuclear industry in Canada is very robust as to security and safety and if and when the spent nuclear fuel is transported from one community to another and I’m positive NWMO will have everyone’s safety taken care of.”

Lloyd has also toured reactor stations and nuclear waste storage and research sites in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.

“When you tour a nuclear waste facility you’re given a badge to monitor the dose you receive while you are on the site, even if it’s for just a brief visit. If you’re parked beside a truck carrying nuclear waste because the highway has just closed there’ll be no badge and there will be no monitoring, but there will be a dose.”

Sep 16, 2016 7:00 AM by: Staff, as posted at

Anishinabek won’t change position on nuclear waste repositories: Madahbee

UOI OFFICES (February 23, 2016) – Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee says the Anishinabek Nation continues to support the 2010/30 Chiefs-in-Assembly resolution which states that the Anishinabek Nation stands united and opposes any deep geological nuclear waste repositories within the Anishinabek Nation Territory.

“We respect Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna in requesting additional studies before she can make an environmental decision,” says Madahbee. “However, it still does not change our position.”

Ontario Power Generation was planning to bury low to intermediate level radioactive waste beside Lake Huron, within Saugeen Ojibway Nations territory.

Lake Huron supplies drinking water to millions of people in Canada and the U.S., it is also a significant ecosystem that supports the livelihoods of the Anishinabek Nation. Ontario Power Generation is facing international opposition as 184 municipalities have passed resolutions opposing Ontario Power Generation’s proposal and proposed waste repository.

According to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – to which Canada is signatory – States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent.

As posted at