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Lassonde hosts Interdisciplinary Research Conference focused on environmental processes in deep geological repositories

In early November, Magdalena Krol, associate professor in the Civil Engineering department and associate dean of research, innovation, enterprise and partnerships at the Lassonde School of Engineering hosted the ORF Alliance Meeting on the Environmental Impact of Engineered Materials Degradation in Porous Consolidated Media. A collaborative event, the Alliance Meeting welcomed over 40 students and faculty members. Attendees included guests from Western University, the University of Toronto and Waterloo University as well as industry partners from the Canadian Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) and Switzerland’s National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (NAGRA).

The event brought together professionals and academics to discuss the work being done in examining the physical and chemical processes occurring in the Deep Geological Repositories (DGR) being designed to house Canada’s used nuclear fuel, including the interactions of the containers with various materials such as groundwater, clay, and microorganisms. This project aims to increase confidence in the plan for the safe permanent disposal of Canada’s nuclear fuel waste.

“Adaptive Phased Management is the name for Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel,”  says Mehran Behazin, a senior scientist at the NWMO. “The technical element of this plan includes centralized containment and isolation of used fuel in a DGR located in a willing and informed host community.  Independent research by academic researchers improves our understanding of the engineered barrier system (EBS), and how it will perform within within a low permeability host rock that serves as a natural barrier.” The EBS includes used copper-coated steel nuclear fuel containers housed within highly compacted bentonite clay.

Lassonde ORF Alliance Meeting 2022, people watching presentation
Lassonde ORF Alliance Meeting 2022, professor giving presentation to her audience

The nature of this project is highly multidisciplinary and includes microbiologists from the University of Waterloo, geologists, surface scientists and chemists from Western University, chemical engineers from the University of Toronto, and civil engineers from York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering. This event was an opportunity for researchers from various disciplines to connect through research presentations, Q&A sessions, posters and conversations. 

“This was the first in-person event we had for this project since 2019,” said Dr. Krol. “It was great to listen to the talks and have the chance to interact with students and faculty members. The poster session especially was a great opportunity for the students to get feedback on their research from their peers as well as industry sponsors.”

Lassonde ORF Alliance Meeting 2022, Nuclear Waste Management schematic representing the integration and collaboration within the ORF project
Schematic representing the integration and collaboration within the ORF project.

“This was a great event with interesting talks,” said Md Abdullah Asad, a PhD student at Lassonde. “I especially enjoyed being able to share my research findings with the rest of the ORF group.”

Over the coming months, collaboration between the universities and industry partners will continue as the research project gets under way. You can learn more about this project by visiting the Western University website.

Lassonde ORF Alliance Meeting 2022, audience listening to presentation
Lassonde ORF Alliance Meeting 2022, audience listening to presentation