History of geological disposal concept in northeastern Ontario

Since the 1970's, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited has been researching and promoting a "concept" of disposing of nuclear fuel waste by burying it in the Canadian Shield. In the late 1970's and early 80's they investigated a number of northern Ontario communities - Massey, Atikokan, Kirkland Lake, Bancroft - as possible disposal sites, and did "research" near Atikokan and Massey, drilling the rock formations, with uncertain results. What was certain was that AECL's efforts were not welcomed by local residents. In Massey, a referendum was held, and 88% expressed opposition to AECL's "research" efforts.

The AECL burial concept was the subject of an 10 year federal environmental assessment review and  a 13 month hearing. The review ended in March 1998 with the Panel concluding that the AECL concept had not been demonstrated to be safe, and that the Canadian public did not support the concept of  burying nuclear waste.

When the federal review began in 1988, AECL was undecided about many aspects of their proposal. The wastes will be buried in caverns 500 to 1,000 feet below the surface; in titanium or copper cylinders; in the containers used to transport the waste from the reactor to the site or in a specialized container; and with or without reprocessing before burial.

By the end of the eight year public process, they were still undecided. The most consistent description given has the waste put in titanium cylinders which are placed in drill holes in the floor of an underground chamber - there would be a series of underground chambers - with the chambers being backfilled before closure. AECL also produced a case study for putting the waste in copper cylinders placed directly in an underground chamber  w,the backfill around the copper container.

The nuclear industry has consistently identified northern Ontario as their intended location for a nuclear waste disposal facility, including AECL and Ontario Hydro. Now known as Ontario Power Generation, Ontario's provincial power utility has generated more than 90% of the nuclear fuel waste in Canada, and did the research and presentations related to transportation and much of the research and presentation related to siting during the federal review, as well as funding parts of the AECL research program. In the opening days of the hearing, Ontario Hydro proposed that they become the "implementing organization" for the AECL concept. With  Ontario Hydro now occupying four of the six seats in the industry controlled Nuclear Waste Management Organization, it appears that their wishes have come true.

History of Nuclear Waste Management and the Geological Disposal Concept

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