Canada’s NWMO prepares for borehole drilling at South Bruce

July 13, 2020, 12:14PMRadwaste Solutions

Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization is getting ready to begin drilling the first borehole in South Bruce, Ontario, as the organization starts its evaluation of the site as a potential host for a deep geological repository for Canada’s spent nuclear fuel. The NWMO said that it has begun important technical and environmental work to prepare the site for drilling, including an evaluation conducted by a biologist on July 6, assessing the location for potential habitat use by sensitive species.

The borehole drilling and testing work is part of the NWMO’s site assessment program, as it seeks to understand the geosphere at the potential repository site. Located about 108 miles west of Toronto, South Bruce is one of two areas the NWMO is exploring as a potential repository site. The other area is around Ignace, in northwestern Ontario.

Prep work: As part of its technical evaluation of the site, the NWMO will conduct borehole drilling, coring, and testing at South Bruce, and the organization is currently identifying local service providers and contractors in preparation for the drilling. In June, the NWMO announced that it has selected Ontario-based environmental and engineering company Geofirma Engineering to drill and test initial boreholes in South Bruce.

“Geofirma has extensive experience in characterizing low-permeability bedrock and brings proven expertise in borehole drilling and testing in South Bruce,” said Sean Sterling, vice president and principal hydrogeologist/engineer at Geofirma Engineering. “The data and information we will gather will help form an in-depth understanding of the area geosphere while providing opportunities for local support services.”

The organization said that it is also conducting a range of investigations to further confirm the suitability of the site and gain an understanding of local habitat use. The NWMO has contracted Tulloch’s Environmental Practice to conduct a ground-nesting bird habitat assessment at the site as part of its investigation into habitat use.

“This work helps us to understand if certain sensitive species are present at the planned borehole location,” said Melissa Mayhew, a senior environmental scientist at the NWMO. “It ensures appropriate mitigation could be implemented if high quality habitat or sensitive species are observed.”

Timeline: Once preliminary work confirms the suitability of the planned location for the first borehole in South Bruce, the NWMO said, it expects to start borehole site construction in early fall and begin drilling and coring later in 2020.

The borehole site is located on land acquired by the NWMO through an ongoing land access process—Lot 23, Concession 8, northwest of Teeswater. Established in 2002 by Canada’s nuclear electricity producers, the NWMO is responsible for designing and implementing Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of spent nuclear fuel.

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