Activities in the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation-Ignace area

One of the two sites being considered for Canada’s deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel is located in the Township of Ignace, which is in the traditional territory of Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation.

Overview

In 2010, the Township of Ignace initiated its area's involvement in the site selection process by formally expressing interest in learning about the project and exploring its potential to host it. Ongoing community input and engagement with both municipal and Indigenous communities in the area is critical to the success of Canada’s plan.

Our commitments are guided by feedback from residents, Indigenous communities and the Township of Ignace. We’re also committed to ongoing scientific study, including community studies and environmental monitoring.

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 journey so far

The site selection 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.

In 2010, Ignace formally expressed interest in learning about the project and exploring its potential to host it.

Initial screening

In August 2010, Ignace'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.

Ignace's initial screening was completed in March 2011. It did not identify any obvious conditions that would exclude the Ignace 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.

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Desktop studies and engagement

In November 2011, Ignace'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 November 2013, we completed the first phase of Step 3: Preliminary Assessment of the site selection process in collaboration with Ignace.

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.

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Exploring partnerships

The NWMO and communities have ongoing discussions on how to advance learning and build the sustainable partnerships that will be required to implement Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel.

The NWMO outlined a multi-step road map to guide these partnership discussions, which focus on exploring potential to advance the project in partnership with people in the area. The roadmap also puts in place a framework to implement the project if a preferred site is identified in the area.

Starting from the bottom and moving upwards, the road map guides our discussions about partnership with communities.

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Partnership working group

A partnership working group has been formed between the NWMO and the Township of Ignace. 

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.

The partnership working group also explores:

  • The potential for partnership and 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 group works towards the ongoing development of the strategic project plan for the municipality and the NWMO, as well as pursuing 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 group has no decision-making authority. It meets monthly or as agreed to by working group members.

 

2019 and 2021 community surveys

In September 2019 and January 2021, the NWMO initiated community surveys in Ignace 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.

Initial field studies

Initial studies, completed as part of Preliminary Assessment, built on earlier studies, and were designed to deepen our understanding of rock characteristics at potential repository sites, the potential for willing hosts, and beyond that, the potential to develop supportive partnerships to implement the project in the area.

Airborne surveys were used to gather additional geological information about potential siting areas. They helped us build a more detailed understanding of bedrock geology both at the surface and deep underground.

Visually observing general geological features helped us build knowledge about the rock. We also use these observations to inform more detailed studies in the future.

Borehole drilling and the resulting studies advanced our understanding of the subsurface geology in the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation-Ignace Area.

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Borehole drilling and testing

In 2017, the NWMO began drilling the first of six one-kilometre-long boreholes in a rock formation known as the Revell Batholith, located south of Highway 17, about 35 kilometres west of Ignace, between Ignace and Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation (WLON).

Selecting locations for these boreholes provided an opportunity for the NWMO, the interested community, and First Nation and Métis communities in the area to work together to consider where the project might best fit.

Once borehole locations were identified, the NWMO was required to submit an application to the provincial government for permission to drill. Assembling a permission application was one activity among many in the process designed to help advance the NWMO’s understanding of the perspectives of people in the area about the project.

In April 2022 we completed borehole drilling in the area. 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.

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Confidence in Safety reports

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 Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation-Ignace 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.

Community studies

We’re committed to ensuring Canada’s plan supports the vision each siting area has for itself, including community betterment and well-being. 

In the summer of 2022, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, in collaboration with the Township of Ignace, began releasing various socio-economic and environmental studies. The studies, referred to as “community studies,” work to address many of the fundamental questions community members have asked about the project. They speak to important environmental and socio-economic impacts, including infrastructure, housing, healthcare, education, jobs, community services and more.

These studies help us — and the siting area communities — understand the real impact of hosting the repository, which is a key component of ensuring that our eventual host community is both informed and willing.

Several of the community studies show there are exciting growth possibilities ahead for Ignace and northwestern Ontario — and that’s growth that would last for generations. 

They’re also a reminder that your voice matters and the NWMO is listening. Results of the completed studies are published below. For additional information, visit the Ignace Community Liaison Committee website.

Read the community studies 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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