Message from the President and CEO: Safety is everything

Photograph of Laurie Swami

Laurie Swami, President and CEO of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization

At the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), safety is our first and highest priority. It drives everything we do – from project design, engineering and environmental research, to aligning with Indigenous Knowledge and engaging local communities.

 

Since 2010, the NWMO has been engaged in a process to identify a site for a deep geological repository, and today, two areas remain in our site selection process: the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation-Ignace area in northwestern Ontario and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation-South Bruce area in southern Ontario. And over this past quarter, we have taken significant strides forward to confirm the safety of Canada’s plan to contain and isolate used nuclear fuel.

 

In April, after more than eight years of preparation, our technical teams successfully completed a full-scale demonstration of our engineered-barrier system, where the containers we will use for the used nuclear fuel were placed in a life-sized model of one of the repository’s underground storage rooms. We are now performing in-depth analysis of the results to further inform our repository design.

 

Then in June, we published the Confidence in Safety reports for each potential site. These reports reflect years of research and fieldwork. They provide detailed results that show why we are confident that both siting areas where communities are considering hosting the project can meet its rigorous safety requirements.

 

Canada’s plan will only proceed in an area with informed and willing hosts, so the communities in the siting areas need information about a wide range of socio-economic, safety and environmental factors to make their decision about hosting the repository. While there will still be many studies ahead once a site is selected, we have already made great progress.

 

We have also started rolling out findings from a series of community studies in both siting areas. These studies are providing invaluable information to potential host communities as they consider their decision. The findings cover a wide range of topics, including employment and workforce growth, opportunities for businesses, infrastructure improvements and the construction of a Centre of Expertise that will attract world-class academics from around the globe.

 

Beyond these technical and scientific studies, we are also committed to ensuring the project is safe from a social and cultural perspective. That is why all our work is supported by the wisdom of our Council of Elders and Youth. This independent advisory council is comprised of Indigenous Elders and youth that help shape the NWMO’s work by guiding us on how to respectfully align with Indigenous Knowledge, inspiring new outlooks and perspectives, and helping our organization walk a path towards Reconciliation.

 

As we move towards site selection and beyond, these ongoing studies will help ensure that potential host communities understand all the factors they need to make an informed decision about partnering with the NWMO.

 

 

About the NWMO

 

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is a not-for-profit organization tasked with the safe, long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel inside a deep geological repository, in a manner that protects people and the environment for generations to come.

 

Founded in 2002, the NWMO has been guided for 20 years by a dedicated team of world-class scientists, engineers and Indigenous Knowledge Keepers that are developing innovative and collaborative solutions for nuclear waste management. Canada’s plan will only proceed in an area with informed and willing hosts, where the municipality, First Nation and Métis communities, and others in the area are working together to implement it. The NWMO plans to select a site in 2023, and two areas remain in our site selection process: the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation-Ignace area in northwestern Ontario and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation-South Bruce area in southern Ontario.