GDF Community Partnership South Copeland

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International focus: Canada

July 4, 2023

Many countries are moving forward with plans for Geological Disposal Facilities (GDFs) as a long-term way of managing radioactive waste, including Sweden, France, Finland, Germany, Switzerland and Canada.

The Canadian plan for geological disposal has been named the ‘Adaptive Phased Management (APM) initiative’, being implemented by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) – subject to securing regulatory approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CSNC).

The aim of the APM is the containment and isolation of Canada’s used nuclear fuel within a GDF, which will be constructed several hundred metres below the ground in stable rock – and only in an area with a willing host.

In Canada, 22 communities initially registered interest in hosting a GDF. Communities were gradually ruled out through surveys, suitability studies, geology and opting out of the process.

Two communities remain, Ignace and South Bruce, both in Ontario but about 1,000 miles (1,600km) apart, and preparations are being made for detailed site evaluations. There will also be a test of public support before a final decision is made and NWMO is aiming to select a preferred location in 2023.

Last year, the South Copeland GDF Community Partnership opened discussions with the representatives in Ignace to exchange knowledge and understanding. The Mayor of Ignace in Canada, Penny Lucas, and the Chair of the Ignace Community Nuclear Liaison Committee (ICNLC), Brad Greaves, gave a presentation online to the South Copeland GDF Community Partnership on a selection of key topics and issues which had been requested in advance by members.

Ged McGrath, Chair of the South Copeland GDF Community Partnership, said at the time: “We were pleased to be able to speak to representatives of the Ignace Community Nuclear Liaison Committee in Canada, to understand more about their siting process, the ways in which the local community has engaged, and the benefits the process has brought and a GDF will bring to the area if it is selected.

“There is a lot that we can learn from Ignace and other communities who are considering the possibility of, or are developing a GDF, and I look forward to our Partnership continuing such conversations as we continue to engage with and understand the views of our community here in South Copeland.”

Finding a suitable location and securing regulatory approval alone will take many years, with construction of the GDF then expected to take around a decade.

Fuel transportation, handling and placement will take 40 years or more, then the GDF will be monitored for an extended period before decommissioning and closure.

The NWMO has said this national infrastructure project has an estimated cost of $26 billion (£16.6bn) and will create “many” jobs – as well as bring “significant economic benefits”.

The NWMO estimates that more than 1,000 jobs will be created in the first 15 years (the site selection phase), with 3,500 in the following decade (site preparation and construction). The next 40 years (operations) will bring around 3,100 jobs, with nearly 500 roles in the 70-year extended monitoring phase and more than 750 jobs for decommissioning and closure (30 years).

Required skill sets involved include everything from engineering to safety, construction and finance.

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