How the Nuclear Waste Management Organization targeted Pinehouse (April 2014)

BY D’ARCY HANDE • APR 12, 2014 • Briarpatch Magazine

The Northern Village of Pinehouse, Saskatchewan. Photo: D’Arcy Hande
Early in March, Briarpatch magazine received documents from the Northern Village of Pinehouse, in partial compliance with one of two Freedom of Information requests filed a year ago. Pinehouse is an isolated village of just under 1,400 people, 80 per cent of whom are Cree speaking. The community is located about 500 kilometres north of Saskatoon.

The released documents primarily relate to the dealings of the Pinehouse leadership with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), a federally mandated consortium designated “to assume responsibility for the long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel.” In recent years, NWMO has focused on finding a “willing host community” for a radioactive waste depository in more remote northern regions over the Canadian Shield rock formations, whose stability is viewed as more desirable for deep geologic waste storage.

As we’ll see, the correspondence between NWMO and the Village of Pinehouse in northern Saskatchewan sheds important light on the tactics NWMO uses when seeking hosts for Canada’s nuclear waste.

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Leak from nuclear waste site would be diluted: Experts (April 2014)

Any radioactive leak from a nuclear storage site at the Bruce nuclear plant would be subject to “significant” dilution, says an expert group

By:       John Spears, Business reporter, Toronto Star,    Published on Fri Apr 18 2014

The “immense” waters of the Great Lakes will greatly dilute any radiation-bearing water that might leak from a proposed nuclear waste site on Lake Huron, says an expert group.
Fast-flowing surface water would also dilute leaking radiation, should the site be located in the ancient rock of the Canadian Shield, the group says.

The four-member group has filed a report  with the federal panel examining Ontario Power Generation’s proposal to bury low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste in a limestone formation 680 metres below the surface, on the shore of Lake Huron.

The federal panel  asked the expert group to compare whether it would be better to inter the waste at the Bruce site, or in ancient granite formations in the Canadian Shield.

The question of leakage from the site has heated up with the recent release of radiation  from a nuclear waste site in New Mexico, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP.

The WIPP release does not appear to be related to water leakage  –  it followed an underground vehicle fire in February – but the fact that radiation had escaped at all prompted the federal panel to schedule additional hearings for the Bruce project.

At the WIPP site in New Mexico  work teams have re-entered the underground area, but are advancing in stages. They haven’t yet reached the area where the leak originated, and may not get there for days or weeks.

WIPP officials have drawn up an 11-stage scheme for drafting up a plan to re-open the site, and are only at the fourth stage.

At the Bruce site, the federal panel has been asking what happens if underground water is contaminated by radiation, and then leaks from the site.

The expert group’s report says that wherever the site is developed, any leaking water it will be significantly diluted.

The group says it’s possible that as much as 1,000 cubic metres a year of water contaminated with radiation might leak out of a site – although it rates the likelihood as “highly improbable.” (A thousand cubic meters is equal to a cube measuring 10 metres in each dimension.)

That’s a very small amount, the group says, given that the annual rainfall into Lake Huron is 42 billion cubic metres a year.

And the volume of water already in the lake is 100 times more than the rainfall, or more than four trillion cubic metres.

As for a waste site in Canadian Shield granite, any leakage would flow into active streams and marshlands

“Hence, the volumes of the bodies of water available for dilution at the surface are either immense (Great Lakes) or actively flowing’so the dilution capacity is significant,” the experts conclude.

The dilution capacity for a site at the Bruce or in the Canadian Shield, the experts conclude, are “similar.”

Read more at Continue reading “Leak from nuclear waste site would be diluted: Experts (April 2014)”

Canada narrows list of possible locations for nuclear waste facility (April 2014)

7 of 22 municipalities dropped from list of potential sites

By Rick MacInnes-Rae, CBC NewsPosted: Apr 09, 2014 7:07 PM ETLast Updated: Apr 09, 2014 7:07 PM ET

Canada is a step closer to picking a place to store spent nuclear fuel underground for the next 100,000 years, a project that’s backfired on some of the world’s other nuclear economies.

Despite the stigma of radioactivity, 22 Canadian municipalities expressed interest in hosting such a facility. Four have now been moved up the list for further evaluation, while seven have been rejected as not suitable. The other 11 are still in the initial assessment phase.

Final approval could take another couple of decades, but if a site is found and approval given to build a Deep Geologic Repository (DGR), the project will generate thousands of jobs, some lasting generations.

Billions would be spent constructing a vast warehouse over 500 metres underground to contain some of the most radioactive waste in the world.

Deadly byproduct

Nuclear energy has helped meet Canada’s electricity needs for more than 40 years, but a deadly byproduct has been steadily building up as a result.

There’s a growing inventory of spent uranium pellets. The radioactive pellets are stored inside long tubes bundled together like 24-kilogram logs.

Spent uranium pellets from nuclear reactors are stored inside long tubes that are bundled together like 24-kilogram logs.

Heading the search for a secure place to store those tubes is the Nuclear Waste Management Organisation (NWMO), funded by Canada’s four nuclear agencies, which describes the situation this way: "If Canada’s entire current inventory of just over two million used fuel bundles could be stacked end-to-end, like cordwood, it would fit into six NHL-sized hockey rinks from the ice surface to the top of the boards."

At present, spent fuel is stored at seven different sites across Canada, including at the reactors it once powered. But thats not a long-term solution, because in time those reactors will be decommissioned and dismantled.

In its quest for a site, the NWMO took the novel step of asking Canadian communities if they’d think about hosting the highly-radioactive payload.

"Well, we didn’t know what to expect" said Jo-Ann Facella, director of social research and dialogue at the NWMO.

"We put out the plan that Canadians had come forward with and the government had selected as Canada’s plan. And an important part of that plan, it emerged from Canadians, is that these facilities only be implemented in a willing host."

What also came back were expressions of interest from 22 different municipalities, tempted in part by the promise of employment if theyre chosen. Some were also drawn by the fact that for taking part in the selection process, they’ll get $400,000 even if they’re not chosen, providing they advance far enough in the process and a DGR is ultimately approved.

All those on the list are from Ontario and Saskatchewan, none from the nuclear-power provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec. (Ontario already hosts the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, where a proposal to construct another DGR on-site for low-to-intermediate level nuclear waste is far more advanced.)

Among the first communities to move up the list is Creighton, Sask. – population 1,500 – where every Monday is Bingo Night, but the town has never won the jackpot of jobs, says Mayor Bruce Fidler.

Under the deep geological repository plan, spent nuclear fuel bundles would be encased in copper containers, then embedded in holes bored into rock 500 metres below ground. (Nuclear Waste Management Organization)

"We’ve been looking at different things throughout a number of years to attract more business, more industry to the area. So that’s why we are learning more about this process."

Creighton is the only Saskatchewan site left on the list. But southern Ontario sits on just the right kind of rock, a thick plate of limestone delightfully named the Ordovician Cobourg Formation. Water contamination and seismic activity is not thought to be an issue for a facility built in that kind of rock, though 24 American reactor operators "cannot show that their reactors would withstand the most severe earthquake that revised estimates say they might face," according to the New York Times this week.

Three Ontario towns with promising geology are moving to the next level of evaluation for a DGR; Hornepayne, Ignace and Schreiber.

Eleven other Ontario sites are still in the early stages of assessment; Blind River, Brockton, Central Huron, Elliot Lake, Huron-Kinloss, Manitouwadge, Nipigon, North Shore, South Bruce, Spanish, and White River.

Seven sites have been turned down because their geologys not right, or they lack the 250 acres of land above ground for ventilation buildings. They include English River First Nation, and Pinehouse in Saskatchewan. And in Ontario, Arran-Elderslie, Ear Falls, Saugeen Shores, Wawa, and the Township of Red Rock.

Mixed reception

In Saugeen Shores on Lake Huron, Mayor Mike Smith expressed regret about missing out on the potential economic bonanza a DGR project would bring, but notes nuclear waste is also controversial.

Canada’s spent nuclear fuel is temporarily being stored at seven main facilities across the country.

"It’s in the neighbourhood of a $30-billion project, so I think that’s a fairly big infrastructure project that would have big economic benefits. But it would also have some pretty big social effects on our community."

Indeed, the rejection notice is welcome to some.

"We are very pleased the NWMO has eliminated us from the siting process" said Pat Gibbons, speaking for Save Our Saugeen Shores, a citizen’s group opposing DGRs in the region.

"We feel that the Great Lakes Basin is not the appropriate place to bury nuclear radioactive waste."

That’s because of fears of leaks in and out of underground nuclear facilities. It has happened before.

In Lower Saxony, German engineers at a salt mine used as a DGR for radioactive waste since 1967 have discovered water coming in, and that the structure has begun to weaken. A salt mine in Morsleben used for similar purposes has also become unstable.

More recently, American authorities shut down the DGR near Carlsbad, New Mexico, in February after workers were exposed to radioactive gas that was also detected above ground. ‘We need to meet robust technical requirements, but at the end of the day it’s going to be the decision of society when, and if, and under what conditions, we want to move forward with this project.’- Jo-Ann Facela, NWMO

The NWMO’s Jo-Ann Facela contends a DGR in Canada would involve more sophisticated controls and technology than anything that exists today.

"We need to meet robust technical requirements, but at the end of the day it’s going to be the decision of society when, and if, and under what conditions, we want to move forward with this project."

And if that’s not enough, the narration in one of the NWMO’s promotional videos adds a dash of guilt to the pitch.

"Canadians have told us that our generation – which benefits from nuclear energy – has an obligation to move forward now with a long-term management program for the used fuel we produce. It would be unfair to future generations to wait any longer."

Meanwhile, Canada is piling more spent fuel bundles on to those virtual ice rinks every year.

As posted at

Northwatch | Box 282 . North Bay . P1B 8H2 | Tel 705 497 0373 |

Northwestern Chamber holding off on firm nuclear position for now (April 2014)

Northwestern Chamber holding off on firm nuclear position for now

By Matt Vis,

The region’s Chamber of Commerce is keeping its eyes on nuclear waste disposal.

New Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce (NOACC) president Nathan Lawrence says the group passed a resolution at its spring meeting this past weekend hold off on taking a firm position on the matter until they have all the answers.

Its really important that were doing our due diligence to continue with the research and making sure we have all the information and facts before a decision is made, Lawrence said on Monday.

What were hearing is that there are communities interested in partaking in this potential program, but we want to make sure our businesses and business members have the appropriate information.

Lawrence, the former president of the SHIFT Young Professionals Network, was named president at last weekends meeting in Geraldton, replacing former president Michael Nitz after his one-year term expired.

The group also passed resolutions advocating for the proper allocation of wood in the forestry industry and trying to allow for stick-frame construction in mid-rise buildings through the Ontario Building Code.

NOACC represents chambers of commerce ranging from as far west as Kenora to Marathon in the east, and includes branches such as Dryden, Fort Frances and Greenstone.

There are nearly 2,000 businesses encompassed

Online at

Northwatch | Box 282 . North Bay . P1B 8H2 | Tel 705 497 0373 |

Schreiber, Hornepayne, Ignace move to next stage in nuclear burial site process (April 2014)

2014-04-09 at 21:58
By Leith Dunick,

Three Northwestern Ontario communities are moving to the next stage as Canada seeks a long-term burial solution for nuclear waste.

Starting this month small fixed-wing aircraft will conduct aerial geophysical studies over Hornepayne, Ignace and Schreiber, as well as Creighton, Sask.

The three Ontario communities were among 22 who expressed initial interest with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization to potentially house a deep geological repository, that when constructed will safely contain and isolate Canadas spent nuclear fuel.

Seven communities have been eliminated after the initial stage. Fifteen others, including Nipigon, Manitouwadge and White River, will continue on to the next phase of study.

Ear Falls, Wawa and Red Rock were among the seven communities that have been removed from further study during the Phase 1 assessments.

The NWMO says several more years of study will be needed before a site can be chosen. The organization adds a site won’t be picked without extensive consultation in each community, as well as nearby First Nations and other surrounding municipalities.

As posted at,-Hornepayne,-Ignace-move-to-next-stage-in-nuclear-burial-site-process

Northwatch | Box 282 . North Bay . P1B 8H2 | Tel 705 497 0373 |

Bruce Hyer pushes nuclear waste group for more consultation (March 2014)

Bruce Hyer pushes nuclear waste group for more consultation

CBC NewsPosted: Mar 21, 2014 11:45 AM ETLast Updated: Mar 21, 2014 11:45 AM ET

A Thunder Bay MP is holding meetings in his riding concerning the possibility of nuclear waste disposal in northwestern Ontario.

Bruce Hyer, the MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North, said the organization responsible for nuclear waste should consult more widely before choosing a site.

"To be blunt about it, I really hope it will light a fire under the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, he said.

Green Party MP Bruce Hyer is touring his riding this week, trying to find out what people think about having a nuclear disposal site in their neighbourhood.

The Green party member has organized meetings, trying to find out what people in places like Terrace Bay and Marathon think about having a nuclear disposal site in their neighbourhood.

The NWMO has narrowed down its list of 21 "willing host communities" to 15, including several in northwestern Ontario.

"But there’s no definition of a willing host community, and there are no geographical parameters around it, Hyer noted.

Hyer said the organization should be consulting with people in all communities that might be affected by a waste disposal site, including towns along transportation routes and neighbouring communities.

NWMO spokesman Mike Krizanc told the CBC that’s part of the plan, but "We’re very early in a very long process."
Mike Krizanc

Nuclear Waste Management spokesperson Mike Krizanc says any future nuclear waste disposal site will not be operational until at least 2035. (Supplied)

Krizanc said the waste disposal project will not be operational until at least 2035.

"There has been no potential site anywhere identified … So there is no transportation route, or mode of transportation yet been identified."

Both Hyer and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization will have the ear of municipal leaders from across the Thunder Bay district today. Hyer is addressing a meeting of the municipal league in Schreiber, and an official with Nuclear Waste Management will speak to the same group later in the day.

Hyer wraps up his series of community meetings in Nipigon tonight. Additional meetings are planned for Thunder Bay and Greenstone.

He is also gathering input through a published survey.

Read more:

Northwatch | Box 282 . North Bay . P1B 8H2 | Tel 705 497 0373 |

Used fuel DGR open houses in Lucknow

By Don Crosby, Owen Sound Sun Times

Monday, March 3, 2014 11:14:12 EST AM



The Nuclear Waste Management Organization will hold a two-

day open house in Lucknow this week to talk to residents of Huron-Kinloss about what would be involved in becoming the storage sit

e for Canada’s high-level nuclear waste.

Huron-Kinloss is one of 15 communities across Canada still interested in being host to a deep geologic repository for the waste.

Last week the NWMO held a similar two-day event in Walkerton answering questions and sharing information with Brockton residents.

The week before that officials were in South Bruce, where NWMO officials met with members of several interested community groups including first responders, members of the local business community and residents seeking more information.

Huron-Kinloss, South Bruce and Brockton are still considering their options while Saugeen Shores and Arran-Elderslie have been eliminated as potential host communities in Bruce County.

Read more


Schreiber Takes Next Step in Nuclear Site Selection Process

Terrace Bay-Schreiber News

February 4, 2014
Peggy Ireland Staff

Schreiber council joined the community liaison committee and a delegation from Pays Plat to meet with representatives of the NWMO on Thursday evening.

NWMO staff were in town to provide an update on the future steps in Phase 2 of the nuclear waste site select ion process.
Schreiber has been selected as one of four communities which will move forward with more detailed suitability studies.
The key questions the NWMO will be looking at are safe site, the well – being of the community, and the local citizenry’s interest in hosting the site.

Next Steps

This summer geologists will be conducting air – borne geophysical surveys to determine the suitability of the rock in this area. The two main areas they will be looking at are northwest of Schreiber, north and west of Winston Lake Road, and north of Schreiber at the north end of Crossman Road.

These airborne studies will be followed up by environmental and geological field mapping. The studies will allow engineers geologists to determine if the rock in this area is stable enough to allow for the long-term storage of Canada’s nuclear fuel waste which has been accumulating in various stockpiles across the country. Up to 10 geologists and expert consultants are expected to be working on the project over the summer.
The NWMO will also be hiring summer students and local guides with knowledge of the area to assist with the studies.


The NWMO plans include extensive consultation with local residents, Aboriginal groups, and Community organizations.
Funding is being provided to Schreiber’s Community liaison committee to assist the town in participating in the ongoing process.
Aboriginal and Metis groups are being asked for their input, to provide their knowledge of the land and their opinions on the process.
Open houses and outreach programs are being planned for the next several months to update local residents about how Step Two will affect them.

Year 2+

If the initial geological studies are promising, future summers will include further engineering studies to determine if and where the facility and its infrastructure might fit.

Although the facility’s total footprint will only be 500 x 500 meters, engineers will be boring four or five boreholes to the depth of 800 to 1000 meters. This could take up to two years, during which geologists will analyze the rock cores and the fractured network of the bedrock. Hydrotesting and geochemical testing will follow.

Working Together

Pays Plat’s Raymond Goodchild suggested that Schreiber explore the possibility of a partnership agreement between the two local groups. Mayor Don McArthur agreed to begin the process. 

Two Bruce County municipalites won’t be housing nuclear waste (January 2014)

CTV London
Published Friday, January 17, 2014 6:20PM EST

Canada’s most radioactive nuclear waste won’t be buried in two Bruce County municipalities.

Saugeen Shores and neighbouring Arran-Elderslie were both told by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) they don’t have the right geology to house two million used fuel bundles that once powered Canada’s nuclear fleet.

Twenty-one communities across Canada initially expressed interest in housing the underground facility a few years in and that’s now down to 14.

Storing nuclear waste

"We were all very pleased, a little bit of shock that the decision came at this time because we weren’t expecting it," says opponent Patrick Gibbons.

But reaction is mixed.

"Really it validates the process, I think. Disappointment? I really have no emotions…it worked out the way they said it was going to," says Mike Smith, Saugeen Shores mayor.

Smith says as much as he’d have liked the billions of dollars in investment and the hundreds of jobs, knowing they won’t house the facility ends division in the community.

"We had some people who were very opposed to the thought of burying this fuel here or even considering that, and there was some people that said ‘You know, I’m not too sure, but it’s worth a look,’" adds Smith

But Gibbons says the fight isn’t over. Three Bruce County municipalities remain in the running for the high-level facility.

"We also have Kincardine who is waiting for a decision about the proposed DGR for the low- and intermediate-level waste," he says.

A decision on the low- and intermediate-level waste facility is expected later this year and decisions on the high-level waste facility are still years away.

The NWMO hopes to have their remaining list of 14 communities down to two or three within the next couple years, but a final choice may still be a decade away.

Read more:

Northwatch | Box 282 . North Bay . P1B 8H2 | Tel 705 497 0373 |

Schreiber, Ignace, Hornepayne move to next stage of nuclear storage study

2013-11-22 at 14:31


Several towns in Northwestern Ontario have received a financial boost from the Nuclear Waste Management Organization.

Communities that have worked with the agency are getting $400,000 apiece for local improvement projects. And three of the towns are moving to the next stage in becoming the possible host site for a used nuclear fuel repository.

Schreiber, Ignace and Hornepayne were notified by the NWMO that they’ve completed the first phase of the preliminary assessment, and have been identified for further study.

Wawa and Ear Falls were not selected for more detailed study.

A total of 24 communities across Canada, including eight in the Northwest, have hosted open houses and agreed to learn more about the proposed underground repository.

Officials in Nipigon, White River and Manitouwadge are still waiting for the first phase assessment to be completed.

NWMO officials say they decided to give each community the $400,000, whether they were selected or not, to show their appreciation for getting involved.

Schreiber Mayor Don McArthur says the money can be used for projects, programs or services that benefit youth or seniors, community sustainability, energy efficiency or economic development.

He adds that he’s pleasantly surprised by the announcement, but points out the next phase will be a lot of work.

The NWMO wants to have repository built within the next 15 years.