The long list of 22 municipalities and Indigenous communities willing to consider hosting a deep hole to store high-level nuclear waste has been whittled down to three. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has dropped the areas around the Townships of Hornepayne and Manitouwadge in northern Ontario from the list, leaving only the Township of Ignace in northwestern Ontario, and the Township of Huron-Kinloss and Municipality of South Bruce in southern Ontario, in the running.
The list will next be shortened to two, with either Huron-Kinloss or South Bruce remaining after further consultation with local landowners to determine the best site for the underground and surface components of what is known as the deep geological repository.
Hornepayne and Manitouwadge will not leave the short list empty-handed. Communities that have offered to play host to the deep geological repository have received various levels of payment from the NWMO — a form of thank-you gift — after they were dropped from the list. Hornepayne and Manitouwadge will each be eligible for $700,000 from the NWMO.
This initiative is one of two separate projects to manage nuclear waste generated in Canada. A separate effort led by Ontario Power Generation proposes to entomb low- and medium-level nuclear waste in solid rock 680 metres below the surface of Kincardine, Ontario. That project is still awaiting environmental approval, a process that has been underway since 2007.
The initiative from the NWMO involves the nastier stuff — used nuclear fuel. It, too, envisions a large crypt hundreds of metres deep in solid, impermeable rock, isolated from water by natural and artificial barriers, and constantly monitored for as long as society deems it necessary.
The mayor and council of all three municipalities have requested that the NWMO consider their communities as hosts for the deep geological repository.
Next steps will include working with municipal and Indigenous communities to conduct progressively more detailed technical site evaluations and social studies. The NWMO says this work will further assess safety and explore how the project can be implemented in a manner that will enhance the well-being of municipal and Indigenous communities in each area.