The NWMO is considering two locations for the repository: a remote site about 35 km west of Ignace, northwestern Ontario, and one near the existing Bruce nuclear power station in southwestern Ontario.
It said transportation is an essential part of Canada’s plan for long-term management of the country’s used nuclear fuel. The used fuel will need to be moved from interim storage facilities near reactor sites across Canada to the deep geological repository site. The transportation programme is expected to begin in the 2040s, once the repository is operational.
The agency wants to have selected a repository site by 2023. It says it will not choose a site where there is opposition to the facility.
As of June last year, there were just over three million spent fuel bundles temporarily stored at eight interim storage facilities across Canada.
When being transported, the fuel rods – which weigh about 24 kg each – would be sealed in specialised containers that have already been subject to tests to simulate how they might withstand a crash or a steep fall.
A container “can carry 384 used fuel bundles and weigh approximately 100 tonnes when loaded,” the agency said.
Depending on the type of container used, the rods would be transported by “conventional” tractor trailers, or trucks deigned to handle “super loads”, the NWMO said.
The agency noted that “transportation year-round is not always feasible due to weather, potential road restrictions and other unknowns (e.g., equipment downtime, maintenance, etc.).”
“At this early conceptual design stage... shipments will occur six days per week for about nine to 11 months of the year,” the NWMO added, depending on which site is selected.
The agency added: “Technology, infrastructure, best practices, and societal priorities are expected to evolve over the 20-year planning time frame” for transportation.
"While transportation of used nuclear fuel won't happen for at least 20 years, we know it's a subject of broad public interest, and we want to hear from Canadians and Indigenous peoples about what they want to see in a safe and socially acceptable transportation plan," said NWMO’s Caitlin Burley.