The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is continuing with remote technical studies for the Revell Batholith formation between Ignace and Wabigoon Lake, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Technical site evaluations and borehole drilling were suspended in April to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Geoscientific studies were underway to assess if the area is suitable for a deep geological repository for Canada’s nuclear waste.
“The reality under the current COVID-19 situation is that we’ve had to change how we do our work, turning our focus to work we can take on remotely,” said Andy Parmenter, Section Manager of Geoscientific Integration and Synthesis at the NWMO.
“The data that we’re getting in continues to indicate that the rock is relatively homogenous and stable and that there is no evidence of recent water deep underground,” added Parmenter.
Other studies that have already been completed include four areas of borehole drilling, airborne geophysical surveys, geological mapping and much more.
Once health guidelines allow it, the NWMO says they plan to drill the fifth and sixth boreholes in the Ignace and Wabigoon Lake area, and are working to finalize two reports on the Ignace area’s location.
“These products will provide the most accurate representation of the bedrock available and they will be integrated with the borehole data to develop three-dimensional geological models of the study area,” added Parmenter.
The Township of Ignace is currently engaged with the NWMO as a potential host for a $23 billion deep geological repository for Canada’s used nuclear fuel. A decision is expected by 2023.
Once the two communities are narrowed down, geological and safety research will continue in each of the two communities until 2023, when a final community is expected to be selected. The project’s timeline states the repository would be built by 2033, with operations beginning in 2043. The project began in 2010.
The site selection process is expected to create up to 95 local jobs, with up to 1,000 jobs in Ontario. Site construction is expected to need 800 local jobs, and operations will be roughly 700 local jobs. Extended monitoring over 70 years will be roughly 170 local jobs, and decommissioning the repository will create 250 jobs.
The repository would only hold Canadian nuclear waste, and would be one of the first in the world. Currently, Finland is the only other country with a deep geological nuclear waste repository. Finland and Sweden both have similar facilities for radioactive waste, with France not far behind.
The project will also include a scientific Centre of Expertise near the repository, where scientists and geologists would be able to showcase the work going on within the repository. It would also act as a scientific hub for the region, allowing and showcasing local, national and international research. It would be built by 2024.
The NWMO operates on a not-for-profit basis and derives its mandate from the federal Nuclear Fuel Waste Act. Canada’s plan calls for the NWMO to identify a single, preferred site to host the project, in an area with informed and willing hosts, by 2023.
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Borehole drilling stops near Ignace