Ontario town to decide whether it’s willing to host a nuclear waste repository

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Published July 10, 2024 at 7:52 am

Anthony Urciuoli/hamilton.insauga.com photo

A northwestern Ontario town is set to decide today whether it is willing to become the site of a deep geological repository for Canada’s nuclear waste.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization plans to decide this year where millions of bundles of used nuclear fuel will be placed in a network of underground rooms connected by cavernous tunnels.

The process for the $26-billion project is already narrowed down to two sites, one in northern Ontario and one in southern Ontario, and the NWMO says that both the local municipality and the First Nation in those areas will have to agree to be willing hosts.

The northern Ontario town of Ignace, between Thunder Bay and Kenora, is set to be the first of those four communities today to make its decision known, at a special meeting of town council.

At that meeting, a committee of community members tasked with taking the pulse of the town’s willingness will present a consultant report, the results of a community vote and their recommendation for or against, then councillors will vote.

Neither of the First Nations has yet made their willingness decisions, and the municipality of South Bruce is set to hold a referendum in October.

The current fleet of nuclear reactors in Canada will produce about 5.5 million used fuel bundles, with around 3.2 million already in either wet or dry storage on site at nuclear plants.

But the NWMO says the current containers of thick concrete walls lined on the outside with a steel plate are designed to last 50 years, so they are not a long-term solution.

The organization, funded by the corporations that generate nuclear power and waste, such as Ontario Power Generation and Hydro-Quebec, is instead planning to build a deep geological repository, as far underground as the CN Tower is tall.

The used nuclear fuel pellets, baked into ceramic, are contained in fuel rods made of corrosion-resistant Zircaloy. Those rods will be in containers made of carbon steel and coated with copper, and those containers will be packed into bentonite clay.

Opponents in the affected communities worry about safety, while proponents see value in the jobs and economic development the project will bring.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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