4 ̶ Fuhgeddaboutit
At the Geraldton meeting, someone suggested that another solution would be to reprocess the nuclear waste rather than to bury it. Render it non-radioactive. Other countries do it. Someone else (well, that was me) suggested that a near-surface repository would be more appropriate.
Mike replied that NWMO was not considering any other alternatives. Fuhgeddaboutit.
So, since 2010, NWMO has been searching for what they call a willing host community. We folks in the North, we call it a pathetically desperate community, so poor in goods and in imagination and in spirit that it will do anything to make a buck.
Yes, there are one helluva lot of jobs on offer.
Let us, however, examine the concept of a deep geological repository.
Mike said that the reason the repository had to be deep underground was (a) to be out of reach of seismic activity, and (b) to be unaffected by “a glacial event”.
The audience (well, maybe that was me) pointed out that seismic activity (i.e., an earthquake) occurs all the time in the Canadian Shield. Most of them are never “felt”. A felt earthquake would usually register 3.5 or better on the Richter scale.
I confess that I have resorted to Google for the following information. The Geological Survey of Canada states that there are about 11 earthquakes a day in Canada, or 77 a week, and that only 1 of the 77 would be “felt”.
Still, to believe we in the North live in an earthquake-free zone is foolish. And if you are styling yourself as an expert in deep geological repositories, you are either disingenuous or deceptive.
In the first two weeks of this month alone, there have been 4 “significant” earthquakes in Canada, ranging from magnitude 2.5 to 4.7, and they were all “felt”. One them occurred 44 km northwest of Hawkesbury, Ontario, in the Canadian Shield.
You heard of those two miners last May in the First Nickel mine near Sudbury. They experienced a “seismic event” deep underground. They died.
To state that all we need be concerned about are seismic events in the zone less than 500 metres from surface ̶ to state that is to be either ignorant or deceitful.
On the other hand, damage to a near-surface repository can be more easily repaired.
I could have spent hours exploring data on seismic activity in Canada and elsewhere. I learned that shallow-focus earthquakes originate 70 kilometres or less underground. Yes, I said kilometres. And that deep-focus earthquakes can occur up to 700 km underground. But enough. Today I have to deal with “a glacial event” also.
Mike clarified that NWMO was imagining the advance of another continental glacier, perhaps 40,000 years down the line. The literature speaks of an ice sheet that may be 3 kilometres high.
NWMO’s scientists and engineers are telling them that the placement rooms will withstand the weight of a continental glacier. Pardon me if I’m skeptical.
I sharpened my pencil and figured out that an ice sheet 3 km high will exert, at ground level, a pressure of 3,071 metric tonnes per square metre. Do I need to repeat that? Okay, 3,071 metric tonnes per square metre.
I am tempted to say that any cavern will be utterly obliterated by an ice sheet, and the former contents squirted hither and thither through the zillions of rock fractures.
Ice sheets are formidable natural phenomena. The whole of Northern Ontario is still recovering from the last ice sheet. It’s called “post-glacial rebound”. The Shield is springing back up, milli-milli-millimetres every day, as the land recovers from the compressive weight of that sheet.
Another reason for finding a “dry” geological formation is that water, although an excellent barrier to radioactivity, is also an excellent conductor. The Pacific Ocean is now a repository of Fukushima’s nuclear waste.
The project will create innumerable ports of entry for surface water. Over time, as “corrosion-resistant” containers become corroded, and seismic events and glacial events compromise said containers, said containers will leak. At some point in the next few hundred thousand years, groundwater will become contaminated.
First, to locate the dry fracture-free geological formation, drills will bore countless holes. And permit the entry of moisture.
The three shafts from surface will permit the entry of water.
And all the clay and concrete you purpose to cram into said holes and shafts will, at some future point, degrade and permit the entry of water.
But, you might object, the containers are retrievable!