Leadership with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization is continuing to meet with leaders from Ignace and Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation to see if the two communities are willing to host a $23 billion nuclear waste repository site.

Ignace / Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation and South Bruce remain the two potential host communities for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s $23 billion deep-geological nuclear waste storage facility if the Ignace community is willing to host the facility over the next 150 years or so.

It would store Canada’s used nuclear fuel roughly 500 metres underground with a wide variety of safety protocols in place. If approved and completed, it would be one of the first of its kind around the world.

President and CEO Laurie Swami and Vice-President of Site Selection for the NWMO, Lise Morton, both visited the two communities recently to meet with municipal and business leaders in the communities.

“Meeting with the people of Ignace and Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation is always a pleasure,” Swami said. “It’s important to talk to people in the siting areas about this significant environmental infrastructure project. Hearing the insights of people who live in the siting areas is very important and is something I value a great deal. These conversations help inform our work.”

The project started with 22 communities before being whittled down to five communities by 2018 when Ignace’s first borehole was drilled. Borehole drilling between Ignace and Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation area resumed earlier this year, after stopping due to COVID-19 concerns last spring.

Both Swami and Morton also discussed water protection, among other key topics, in Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation. The two later joined NWMO staff and Ignace Mayor Penny Lucas for a flight into White Otter Castle, an iconic northern landmark.

“Northwestern Ontario is beautiful, and I am always happy to have the opportunity to visit,” said Morton. “Connecting in person again after so many months meeting virtually has been a breath of fresh air. The coming months will be very important. The siting communities will be informing us about how they will determine willingness, so it is important that we continue to have meaningful discussions with regional leaders and with the people in the north.”

The NWMO’s timeline states the repository will be built by 2033 with operations beginning in 2043 after preparation work began back in 2010. Depending on the amount of used fuel placed in the underground repository, the NWMO says operations could last for over 40 years.

The group 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.

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.