Borehole drilling in the Ignace area is set to resume soon after stopping last year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and safety concerns.

Staff with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization say the borehole drilling between Ignace and Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation will resume this spring, and preparations are underway to begin drilling in the South Bruce area.

Ignace and South Bruce remain the two potential host communities for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s $23 billion deep-geological nuclear waste storage facility. The project started with 22 communities, before being whittled down to five communities by 2018, when Ignace’s first borehole was drilled.

Rendition of the facility.

The project’s timeline states the repository would be built by 2033 with operations beginning in 2043 after preparation work began back in 2010. The $23 billion repository would only hold Canadian nuclear waste, and would be one of the first facilities of its kind around the world.

The NWMO says a final decision on the two communities is expected in 2023, but they’ll be taking a more site-focused approach in 2021 with extensive studies in the Ignace area to establish employment and workforce, housing, economic and health conditions for future staff.

A rendition of a storage container.

The project will also include a scientific Centre of Expertise near the repository, where scientists and geologists would be able to showcase the work going on within the repository. It would also act as a scientific hub for the region, allowing and showcasing local, national and international research. It would be built by 2024.

The NWMO is also currently leading the development of a new national strategy for low and intermediate-level radioactive waste, requested by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in November, 2020.

Staff note all of Canada’s low and intermediate-level radioactive waste is currently managed in interim storage in Canada. The new integrated strategy aims to ensure the waste continues to be managed safely with best practices over the long-term.

“Your feedback drives and informs all our work. Canada’s plan is your plan, and we need to hear from Canadians and Indigenous peoples to ensure we are on the right track,” said Lisa Frizzell, Vice-President of Communications at the NWMO.

The NWMO has created an online survey for residents to submit their thoughts on the work by June 11, 2021. The survey can be found HERE.