International experts gaining confidence in proposed site for DGR

By Marie Wilson

Science

Science Deep Geologic Repository News

 

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 Geoscience Review Group members Andreas Gautschi (L), Joe Pearson, Derek Martin and Jacques Delay view the drilling of an inclined deep borehole as part of their visit to the Bruce site July 16.

 Members of the Geoscience Review Group Derek Martin (L), Joe Pearson, Jacques Delay and Andreas Gautschi check out the DGR mobile exhibit for OPG’s low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste 

Four renowned experts, with diverse experience in international long-term nuclear waste management programs, are encouraged by the interim results from a planned four-year geologic investigation, initiated in 2006, to verify the suitability of the Bruce Nuclear site for the implementation of Ontario Power Generation (OPG)’s proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) for low-level and intermediate-level nuclear waste.

“With each visit (third visit), we gain confidence in our early assumptions for the Bruce site,” said Dr. Derek Martin, a geomechanical engineer from the University of Alberta, on behalf of the Geoscience Review Group. This group was contracted by OPG in 2005 to provide peer review and oversight to ensure the geoscientific site characterization of the Bruce site benefits from independent, international expertise.

With Martin on this group are Dr. Andreas Gautschi, a section head for geosciences at NAGRA – the Swiss National Co-operative for the Disposal for Radioactive Waste; Dr. Joe Pearson, an expert in groundwater geochemistry from North Carolina; and Jacques Delay from ANDRA – France’s National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management. They were at the Bruce site July 16 to observe the drilling program.

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To date, four deep vertical boreholes have been drilled, cored and tested to provide an understanding of the multiple natural geologic barriers that exist beneath the Bruce site and their ability to safely isolate and contain low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste.

Martin noted that the data so far reflects the group’s early expectations that the geology at and overlying the proposed DGR, to be constructed 680 metres below the surface, consists of tight, low-permeability layers of sedimentary rock formations that are stable, predictable and laterally extend over great distances without major fractures or deformities.

“The conditions are better than originally expected,” he said.

The current drilling of two inclined boreholes – one at 60 degrees horizontal with the other at 65 degrees – to respective depths of 840 metres, followed by coring and testing, will complete the drilling program and in Martin’s words, “provide final confirmation of the geologic model.”

The group is working with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) – an independent not-for-profit Canadian company contracted by OPG to manage the DGR through the regulatory approvals process.

For more information about the DGR check the website at www.nwmo.ca/dgr  or call 519-368-1639.

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