Step 3: Phase 2 - Field Studies and Engagement

In 2015, the NWMO began working with communities in this area to plan field studies and engagement as part of Preliminary Assessment (Step 3: Phase 2). Through fieldwork, more detailed studies and broadened engagement, Phase 2 assessments expand upon work completed in Phase 1.

Based on findings from these initial surveys, we may conclude studies in areas with lower potential to meet technical and community well-being requirements.

We will then work with communities in areas that continue in the process to plan more intensive field studies.

As studies are completed, we will publish the details here.

Environmental Baseline Monitoring Program

As part of the site assessment process, the NWMO will conduct 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.

Property Value Protection

As part of the land access process, the NWMO committed to develop, in consultation with the municipality of South Bruce, a program to compensate property owners if property values are adversely affected by the project. This property value protection program will be developed as part of a series of well-being studies that the NWMO plans to complete with the involvement of the community in 2021.

Partnership Working Group

Partnership working groups have been formed between the NWMO and each of the Municipality of South Bruce, the Township of Huron-Kinloss and the Township of Ignace. The partnership working groups are currently active in South Bruce and Ignace, Ontario.

Each partnership working group includes municipal and NWMO representatives, with the purpose of exploring the Adaptive Phased Management project and what it would mean if Canada’s plan were implemented in the community.

The partnership working groups also explore:

  • 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 the Canada’s plan; and 
  • How the broader area would be involved.

The partnership working groups work 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 goal of each partnership working group is to propose 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 the members of each partnership working group.

In 2020 residents of South Bruce participated in Project Visioning workshops that identified their priorities for the Adaptive Phased Management project if South Bruce 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 Community Survey

In September 2019, 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.

2019-2020 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 allow 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.

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 requires us to assemble and access sufficient land to complete our studies, which could include 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 allow 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 April 2021, the NWMO signed an agreement for an additional 150 acres, 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.

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.

Geoscientific studies conducted to date  involved desktop studies, which make use of publicly available information about the geology of the area. 

In May 2019, the NWMO launched a Land Access Process and worked with local landowners in South Bruce to determine if a possible site could be identified in the area. In January 2020, the NWMO signed agreements with landowners in South Bruce that will allow access to land for studies at the potential repository site northwest of Teeswater, Ontario. 

In October 2020, the NWMO signed additional agreements with landowners in South Bruce and announced the organization was beginning plan for two exploratory boreholes to confirm understanding of geology at the site. Drilling is planned to begin in 2021. 

As part of drilling best practices, the NWMO will test private water wells at and near the borehole sites.

The NWMO will work together with people in the area to plan the next set of activities. The NWMO will share the location of boreholes we will drill to help advance understanding of the geology at the potential repository site. We also plan to provide opportunities for interested residents to observe drilling activities to learn about the project.

Once borehole testing is complete the NWMO will review findings with people in the area and reflect on whether or not to continue with further studies.

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 

The NWMO is planning additional field activities in 2021 in order to further characterize the geology in South Bruce, Ont.

Activities include:

  • employing microseismic monitoring stations across the region 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. 

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, which focuses on exploring potential to advance the project in partnership with people in the area, as well as puts in place a framework to implement the project if a preferred site were identified in the area.

Road map to partnership (2017-2022)

Image shows partnership steps written out in text. South Bruce has identified values and principles to guide future 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 (Guiding principles for exploring partnership – Community conversations update) below.

Project Economics: Employment

To help understand the project's economic effects in potential siting areas, we have developed models that provide initial estimates. By working together to implement the project, we can optimize and direct economic benefits to meet community expectations and needs.

We have committed to implementing the project in a way that fosters well-being as defined by the people who live in the area. We continue to learn from communities about the many dimensions of well-being that are important to them. Economics is just one aspect.

If the project proceeds in the area, it will create many jobs in and around South Bruce. Given the project’s extended time frame, there would be many opportunities for people living in the area. New families would be attracted to the area and would also contribute to area communities.

The project will create employment that includes:

  • Direct Jobs: Jobs at or near the repository site, including skilled and semi-skilled employment during construction and operations

  • Indirect Jobs: Jobs created by suppliers and contractors working on the project, such as food catering, accommodation, transportation, and equipment

  • Induced Jobs: Jobs created in retail and professional services by expenditures of people employed in direct and indirect jobs

Visualization of employment details listed by project phase.