Activities in the Saugeen Ojibway Nation-South Bruce area

One of the two sites being considered for Canada’s deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel is located in the Municipality of South Bruce, which is in the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.

    Overview

    In 2012, the Municipality of South Bruce initiated the area’s involvement in the site selection process by formally expressing interest in learning about the project. Ongoing community input and engagement with both municipal and Indigenous communities in the area is critical to the success of Canada’s plan. We’re also committed to ongoing scientific study, including community studies and environmental monitoring.

    Our commitments are guided by feedback from residents, Indigenous communities, and the municipality. 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.

    If a preferred site in the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON)-South Bruce area is selected for the repository, future steps will involve a range of activities, including detailed site evaluations, completing required regulatory processes, preparing for construction, and eventually operating the facility.

    Communities in the area have been actively engaged in exploring their potential to host the repository for over a decade now. These activities are summarized below.

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    The journey so far

    The NWMO formally initiated the site selection process in May 2010. The process began with a broad program to provide information, answer questions and build awareness about the project. Awareness-building activities are designed to continue throughout the site selection process.


    As a first step, we provided general information to those who requested it. We began assessment activities in an initial screening only after individual communities formally expressed an interest in learning more.

    The Municipality of South Bruce initiated the area's involvement in the site selection process in 2012 by formally expressing interest in learning about the project and exploring their potential to host it.

    Initial screening

    In March 2012, South Bruce's Mayor and Council passed a resolution requesting an initial screening of the community's potential suitability to host the project. This screening involved a review based on readily available information about the geology of the community and vicinity.

    South Bruce's initial screening was completed in August 2012. It did not identify any obvious conditions that would exclude the South Bruce area from further consideration in the site selection process.

    We encouraged communities that passed the initial screening to begin learning more about the project. We provided an initial briefing and invited representatives to take a tour of an interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel. We also encouraged communities to meet with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to learn about the regulatory framework that will govern the project.

    Resources:

    Desktop studies and engagement

    In November 2012, South Bruce's Mayor and Council passed a resolution asking the NWMO to initiate a Preliminary Assessment of the community's potential suitability to host the project.

    In December 2014, we completed the first phase of Preliminary Assessment of the site selection process in collaboration with South Bruce.

    This phase involved:

    • Desktop studies that explored the potential to find a site that can safely and securely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel; and
    • Community learning and dialogue activities to build understanding about the project and to explore its potential to align with the community's long-term vision.

    Based on studies to date, the community appeared to have strong potential for meeting strict safety and geotechnical requirements and for the project to align with its long-term vision. The studies also identified a number of uncertainties to be further explored through more detailed study.

    Resources:

    Exploring partnerships

    The NWMO and communities have begun more detailed discussions on how to advance learning and build the sustainable partnerships that would be required to support the implementation of Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel.

    The NWMO has outlined a multi-step road map to guide these partnership discussions. The road map focuses on exploring potential to advance the project in partnership with people in the area, as well as putting in place a framework to implement the project if a preferred site is identified in the area.

    South Bruce has identified values and principles to guide discussions with the NWMO to explore partnership and to consider the project in more detail. These values and principles, and the engagement activities that led to their development, are described in the summary report below.

    Resources:

    Partnership working group

    A partnership working group has been formed between the NWMO and the Municipality of South Bruce.

    It includes municipal and NWMO representatives, with the purpose of exploring the Adaptive Phased Management (APM) project and what it would mean if Canada’s plan were implemented in the area.

    It also explores:

    • The potential for partnership and to consider how the APM project might be configured in order to align with the municipality’s priorities and objectives;
    • The near- and longer-term investments in the community related to Canada’s plan; and
    • How the broader area would be involved.

    The partnership working group works towards the ongoing development of the strategic project plan for the municipality and the NWMO, as well as related activities to support the potential for partnership.

    The group proposed a framework and list of milestones (including scope, timelines, resources and budgets) for further dialogue and decision-making. The partnership working groups have no decision-making authority. They meet monthly or as agreed to by working group members.

    The Land Access Process

    A key part of the selection process is studying and identifying a site that can safely house the underground repository and its surface-level facilities. Part of that work required us to assemble and access sufficient land to complete our studies, including borehole drilling, environmental monitoring and other site investigation work such as Indigenous cultural verification.

    In South Bruce and Huron-Kinloss, the NWMO sought to sign agreements to access sufficient land in order to complete those studies. This was referred to as the Land Access Process, initiated in May 2019. Similar land is already available to us in the Ignace area. 

    In January 2020, the NWMO signed agreements with landowners in South Bruce, Ont., that allowed sufficient access to land for studies at a potential deep geological repository location. 

    In October 2020, the NWMO signed additional agreements with landowners and shared details and a map of the potential deep geological repository site in South Bruce, Ont. The NWMO also outlined next steps to confirm safety at the site and made a commitment to protect property values in the area if it is selected to host a repository.

    In 2021, the NWMO signed additional agreements with landowners for 250 acres of land and shared an updated map of the potential deep geological repository site in South Bruce, Ont.

    To learn more about the Land Access Process, please read The Land Access Process: Next steps in Huron-Kinloss and South Bruce.

    2019-20 Assessment update

    In 2019, we announced that two areas would continue in the site selection process: either Huron-Kinloss or South Bruce, and the Ignace area. In Huron-Kinloss and South Bruce, one community would move forward once a potential repository site was located through an ongoing process with local landowners. 

    In January 2020, the NWMO signed agreements with landowners in South Bruce, Ont., that allowed sufficient access to land for studies at a potential deep geological repository location. It was also concluded that the Township of Huron-Kinloss, Ont., will no longer be considered a potential host for the project; however, as a neighbour to South Bruce, the community will continue to play a strong role as activities continue.

    This decision followed several years of progressively more detailed study and engagement.

    Resources:

    Visioning workshops

    In 2020, residents of South Bruce participated in project visioning workshops that identified their priorities for the APM project if the SON-South Bruce site were to be selected as the single, preferred location for the safe, long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

    The full report prepared by AECOM outlines how the workshops were conducted, as well as a detailed summary of feedback, comments and questions that were generated.

    2019 and 2021 community surveys

    In September 2019 and January 2021, the NWMO initiated community surveys in South Bruce to better understand and improve the way we communicate and engage with the public. The surveys were conducted by an independent Canadian research firm on behalf of the NWMO and were designed to determine how communities would like to receive information during the site selection process.

    Environmental baseline monitoring program

    As part of the site assessment process, the NWMO has conducted environmental monitoring to create a baseline of understanding to ensure we can minimize any effect Canada’s plan may have.

    In 2020, the NWMO hosted a series of virtual and in-person workshops to gather community input into the environmental baseline monitoring program. Led by the NWMO’s environmental and engagement teams, the workshops provided valuable input to advance our understanding of the specific needs and environmental interests of many community members.

    In July 2021, we partnered with the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority (SVCA) to launch a joint program to further understand water resources in South Bruce and the surrounding area to ensure protection for generations to come. As part of this program, the SVCA will conduct surface water quality and hydrology studies on behalf of the NWMO to develop a more comprehensive assessment of portions of the Saugeen Valley watershed, specifically the Teeswater River and Beatty Saugeen River sub-watersheds. The program will characterize baseline environmental conditions by collecting monitoring data from those areas.

    For more information on surface water and hydrology sampling and monitoring locations, check out the maps below.

    Borehole drilling and testing

    The focus of geoscientific studies in South Bruce is to determine if the geosphere in the area has the potential to satisfy the safety requirements for a deep geological repository for the long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

    In 2021 the NWMO began borehole drilling in the Saugeen Ojibway Nation-South Bruce area. A total of two boreholes were conducted, with drilling completed in April 2022. As part of drilling best practices, the NWMO conducted testing of private water wells at and near the borehole sites.

    Ultimately, the preferred site will need to meet robust technical requirements focused on safety. The implementation of the project must also foster the well-being of the area as defined by people who live there, and will need to be supported by strong partnerships. The project can only proceed with the involvement of the interested community, First Nation and Métis communities in the area, and surrounding communities.

    Additional field studies

    In 2021 the NWMO conducted field activities to further characterize the geology in the Saugeen Ojibway Nation-South Bruce area:

    • Employing micro seismic monitoring stations across the area to monitor for natural or manmade seismological shifts, such as earthquakes or the effects of borehole or well drilling;
    • Installing shallow groundwater monitoring wells to study the hydrogeology of the area; and
    • Conducting geophysical studies in the area to assess the suitability of the area to host a repository.

    Property Value Protection program

    In February 2022, the NWMO introduced a program to protect the value of properties near the potential site in South Bruce for Canada’s deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel. 

    The Property Value Protection (PVP) program reflects a responsible commitment to the community and addresses questions we have heard from residents about whether property values will be affected if South Bruce is selected for this project. The program was developed in consultation with the Municipality of South Bruce and works to satisfy one of the guiding principles the community set out to support local decision making about the project.

    The NWMO will continue to engage with landowners in the vicinity of the potential site to be sure we are capturing their thoughts on this and other topics related to the project. 

    Confidence in Safety

    In June 2022, the NWMO published Confidence in Safety reports for each of the two potential sites being considered to host a deep geological repository to store Canada’s used nuclear fuel. Based on the results of several years of technical studies, the NWMO’s team of scientists and engineers is confident that a repository can be constructed at either of the two potential sites. 

    Our confidence is built on an understanding of several broad factors, including the characteristics of the geology and long-term stability of the rock and surrounding area, the strength of the multiple-barrier system, and the site’s capabilities to support the safe construction, operation and closure of the repository.

    The Confidence in Safety report for the Saugeen Ojibway Nation-South Bruce area will be used to support continuing dialogue about the project, including helping to inform the communities that are considering their willingness to host it. After a site is selected, additional studies will be undertaken to further inform the repository design and long-term safety case.

    Read the full Confidence in Safety reports here.

    Memorandum of understanding

    The NWMO is committed to listening to the community and working to satisfy the guiding principles set out by South Bruce to support local decision making.

    In June 2022, we completed a memorandum of understanding with the Municipality of South Bruce. It includes a list of commitments made by the NWMO to the South Bruce community. This memorandum is meant for discussion purposes only and does not constitute a legally binding or enforceable agreement.

    Memorandum of Understanding

    Engaging the agricultural community

    The NWMO is responsible for implementing Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel in a manner that safeguards people and respects the environment, now and in the future. We are committed to meeting or exceeding all applicable regulatory standards and requirements for protecting the health, safety and security of people and the environment.
     
    In South Bruce, that also includes continued success and sustainability in agriculture and the protection of our water resources. There cannot be any credible risk to people or the environment for the project to move forward.

    Click here to view commonly asked questions on agriculture and other topics. You can also view our reports here.

    What's next

    Once we have identified a preferred site in the area selected for the repository, future steps will involve a range of activities, including detailed site evaluations, completing required regulatory processes, preparing for construction, and eventually operating the facility.
    Learn more

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