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Michael Borrelli: Building the case for proper nuclear waste management

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is responsible for dealing with the long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel. Currently, the organization is undergoing the site selection process for its ultimate solution to the problem of what to do with spent nuclear fuel – burying it deep underground in a specially built facility.

NWMO’s Michael Borrelli discussed what’s involved in finding the right community in which to build the proposed deep geological repository, how the organization has been engaging the public in the site selection process, and why burying the nuclear waste makes the most sense during a conversation with Municipal World CEO Susan Gardner at the 2019 Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Quebec City.

Education a Key to Selection Process

In the video, Borrelli explains how the NWMO has been undertaking the site selection process for the nuclear waste depository since 2010.

“What we are looking at now is beyond geological factors, looking at the ability to have a partnership with not only the municipality, but with the neighbours and their First Nation and Metis neighbours as well,” Borrelli said. “We have to be sure of not only the underground characteristics of the rock, but we want to make sure that above ground the community will better off for having hosted us.”

At one time, 22 communities in Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Quebec had put their names forward as a possible host. The process saw the number of possible sites cut down to 11 and then five. (Editor’s Note: Since the recording of this video, NWMO has announced the Township of Ignace in northwestern Ontario, and the Township of Huron-Kinloss and Municipality of South Bruce in Southern Ontario are the two finalists.)

Depository a Best Case for Public Safety

Throughout the process, Borrelli explained, staff has invested considerable energies into community education efforts.

The organization’s efforts at engagement included public meetings, opening local education centres, and spending time at municipal association conferences. NWMO also visiting with communities neighbouring possible site locations to answer questions around why the depository is so important.

“Radiation is a type of energy that if you put a barrier between you and that source, you can improve your safety. Essentially, we are building that case by having five major barriers between that radioactive source and the people and the environment,” Borrelli said. “The largest one being that we are looking at placing the facility about 500 or 600 metres underground – that’s a lot of rock. That, by itself, is the barrier that will provide the most amount of shielding and protection for people and the environment.”  MW

✯ Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in Michael Borrelli’s articles: Providing peace of mind for future generations. Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.

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