Ignace residents to attend nuclear conference

By Mike Stimpson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Thunder Bay Source

IGNACE – Some residents of the Northwestern Ontario township on the shortlist for a nuclear waste repository will be going places soon, on Nuclear Waste Management Organization money.

Two industry-related trips are on the horizon, as well as a mid-April learning event in Ignace – all part of the “willingness process” integral to the NWMO’s site selection for its deep geological repository (DGR) project.

First up is the 2024 Canadian Nuclear Association conference set for Feb. 28 to March 1 in Ottawa, which township spokesperson Jake Pastore said Friday will be attended by about 10 people from Ignace.

Then a tour of a Cameco uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan is set for March 11-14. A Feb. 1 news release from the township said delegates for that junket will be selected Feb. 20.

The Ignace delegation for the Saskatchewan mine tour will number about six, including Mayor Kim Baigrie, Pastore said.

NWMO spokesperson Vince Ponka said the Ignace delegation will benefit from the mine tour by gaining “a deeper understanding of the material that they could potentially be dealing with.”

Uranium mining is, after all, “the first step in the nuclear fuel cycle,” he said. “That’s where it all starts … and then the end of the nuclear fuel cycle would be a deep geological repository.”

Ponka noted that Canada is the world’s third largest uranium producer, after Kazakhstan and Namibia.

Preparations are underway for a Northwest Nuclear Exploration Event similar to the one held last September at the Ignace Recreation Centre.

Exhibitor applications are still coming in for the April 12-13 event, which will also take place at the rec centre.

The list of exhibitors will likely be finalized in early March, Pastore said.

The trips and exploration event are all being paid for out of NWMO funds, Pastore and Ponka confirmed.

As a potential host community for the DGR, Ignace draws from two pools of NWMO money: the Near-Term Investment Fund and the Community Well-Being Fund.

The township spent about $1.7 million from those funds last year and is expected to spend a similar amount this year.

The NWMO is considering a site between Ignace and Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation for the construction of a DGR – a deep-underground facility for the long-term disposal of spent fuel from Canada’s nuclear power plants.

The only other site being considered at this late point in the selection process is near Saugeen Ojibway Nation and South Bruce in southern Ontario.

After the DGR site is chosen this fall, construction likely won’t begin until about 10 years later.

A key criterion for site selection is that a host community be informed and willing to accept the DGR being built nearby.

Ignace and Wabigoon Lake each have a “willingness process” underway to see if they could be willing host communities.

The process has included tours of the almost-operational DGR in Finland. Some Wabigoon Lake members toured the Finland facility last summer and an Ignace delegation visited it in November.