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Deep Geologic Repositories

What is a DGR?

A deep geological repository (DGR) is a facility constructed underground – usually at a depth of several hundred metres or more below the surface – in a stable rock formation to contain and isolate radioactive waste from the public and the environment for thousands of years.

DGR research

The deep geological storage method has been studied for several decades around the world, through laboratory tests and underground research facilities. Since 1978, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has been involved in independent research and assessment, including international collaboration, on the long-term management of used nuclear fuel in geological repositories.

DGR status in Canada

Canada has two proposed long-term radioactive waste management initiatives under way that may result in the construction of a deep geological repository.

The first, Ontario Power Generation's Deep Geologic Repository, is a proposal to build a facility for the long-term management of low-and intermediate-level radioactive waste at the Bruce Nuclear site, in the Municipality of Kincardine, ON. An environmental assessment for the project is currently ongoing.

The second, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization's (NWMO) Adaptive Phased Management approach , focuses on the long-term management of Canada's used nuclear fuel. The NWMO is currently conducting site selection for this DGR.

Both initiatives are in the early stages, and no regulatory decisions on either initiative have been made.

Image: In 2013, CNSC staff visited the underground rock characterization facility in Finland to learn about research being conducted for a deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel.

DGRs around the world

Low- and intermediate-level radioactive wastes are managed in many different ways around the world, and the process to store the wastes varies from country to country.

High-level radioactive waste DGRs are being considered in most countries with commercial nuclear power production. In Switzerland, an active site-selection process is currently under way. The site selections for France and Sweden have been made. Sweden's nuclear regulatory body is currently reviewing a licence application for construction. Finally, Finland's DGR project, the Onkalo spent nuclear fuel repository, which obtained regulatory approval to begin construction in November 2015, is the first project to enter the construction phase.  

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