NWMO announces successful demonstration of engineered barriers

By Cory Bilyea

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

TORONTO-The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) recently announced that they have successfully completed a “full-scale demonstration of the engineered barriers that will safely contain and isolate Canada’s used nuclear fuel in a deep geological repository (DGR).”

The NWMO’s team of leading technical specialists and engineering partners have been designing and fabricating the “specialized prototype equipment and components” for more than eight years, the release said.

“All elements of the demonstration performed as expected and according to plan,” said Chris Boyle, vice-president and chief engineer at the NWMO. “The demonstration shows not only the NWMO’s ability to install the engineered-barrier system, but also the calibre of our technical teams, who are invested in the project’s success and committed to doing what’s right for Canadians and Indigenous peoples.”

The release said that a team of technical workers built a life-size model of one of the proposed DGR’s underground storage rooms at the NWMO’s test facility in Oakville, using the exact measurements and simulated rock tiling.

“Over several days, highly customized heavy machinery moved containers designed for used nuclear fuel into the room and filled the remaining space with protective material that will ensure that the containers retain their strength and durability for many thousands of years,” states the release.

“Our successful demonstration was the result of made-in-Canada innovation and collaboration,” said Boyle. “Every step of the process was undertaken using sophisticated prototype equipment that was designed and fabricated in partnership with Canadian engineering companies.”

The fuel containers, which the NWMO said are durable, made of thick carbon steel for strength and coated with corrosion-resistant copper and were encased in protective layers called buffer boxes.

The buffer boxes are made of “compressed bentonite clay, the boxes provide additional protection against corrosion or degradation. Bentonite is an effective barrier to both water flow and microbial growth.”

The demonstration then placed the 8,000 lb boxes into the storage room, the release said, then “later, all the remaining space from floor to ceiling was filled with loose granular bentonite.

“After the demonstration was completed, the room was methodically emptied to carefully evaluate the installation of the engineered-barrier system.

“In-depth analysis is now underway to assess the results and yield insights that will support the ongoing design and planning of the deep geological repository.”

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is a not-for-prxofit organization tasked with the safe, long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel inside a deep geological repository in a manner that protects people and the environment for generations to come.

Canada’s plan will only proceed in an area with informed and willing hosts, where the municipality, First Nation and Metis communities, and others in the area are working together to implement it. The NWMO plans to select a site in 2023, and two areas remain in its site selection process: the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation-Ignace area in northwestern Ontario and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation-South Bruce area.

Cory Bilyea   is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the  WINGHAM ADVANCE TIMES . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI government funding.



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