NWMO ensuring safety of repository design amid a changing climate in Ignace and South Bruce

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is working to ensure the safety of our repository design amid a changing climate in Ignace and South Bruce.

Two new reports developed by Golder Associates Ltd. examine how the climate may change in each of the two areas remaining in the NWMO site selection process. The reports found that in both potential siting areas, precipitation and temperatures are likely to increase, and the summer months are projected to become drier over the next century and beyond. These reports build on earlier work and will support climate change impact studies at the site to mitigate and minimize the impact on the surface facilities required for a deep geological repository to safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel.

From more rain to hotter, more humid summer days, two new reports paint a picture of how the weather will change in northern and southern Ontario near two potential sites for a deep geological repository. The information will help inform the NWMO’s work in implementing Canada’s plan

“The findings in these reports lend us a broader understanding of the climate at the potential repository sites in the decades following the start of operations, through the planned decommissioning of the repository,” said Kelly Liberda, Senior Engineer of Safety and Technical Research at the NWMO.

The reports evaluate how everything from precipitation to hotter, more humid summer days might change in coming decades and more than a century from now. The reports are based on cutting-edge technology used to calculate how weather patterns will change in the coming decades and into next century. 

“Everything we do at the NWMO is based on ensuring safety, and that the repository is designed to protect people and the environment for generations to come,” said Liberda.

“The insights in the reports offer allow us to adapt our technical designs for both areas to ensure they can withstand shifting weather patterns, whether that is through changes to our stormwater management or ensuring the surface facilities can withstand extreme heat or even flooding.”

While the actual repository itself will be buried deep underground, and its multiple-barrier system is designed to withstand ice ages, and its safety case is based on geological time, the surface facilities will be more exposed to the immediate effects of a changing climate. That is why the NWMO is working today to ensure that the weather patterns of tomorrow are accounted for in how we build the surface facilities at the eventual repository site.

The studies projected changes in climate in both the Ignace area and South Bruce over three separate time periods: when the repository is expected to begin operating mid-century (2041 to 2070); in the middle of operations at the end-of-century (2071 to 2100); and when the repository could be moving towards decommissioning in the years beyond 2100.

About the NWMO:  The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is a not-for-profit organization implementing Canada’s plan to safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel inside a deep geological repository in a manner that protects people and the environment for generations to come.

Canada’s plan will only proceed in an area with informed and willing hosts, where the municipality, First Nation and Métis communities, and others in the area are working together to implement it. The NWMO plans to select a site in 2023, and two areas remain in our site selection process: the Ignace area and South Bruce, both in Ontario.