More nuclear talk in Ignace

By Mike Stimpson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Thunder Bay Source

IGNACE – The Willingness Engagement Team is in town, and they’re looking for a little conversation.

Six team members from consulting firm With Chéla Inc. are in Ignace to talk with residents about the deep geological repository (DGR) that might eventually be built nearby.

With Chéla owner Chéla Breckon said the team will knock on doors and happily meet with residents who come to 34 Main St. or the local arena to participate in the “willingness study” that the township has contracted her firm to conduct.

Plus, there’s wing night at Clooch’s. Residents are invited to join Breckon, an Ottawa Senators fan, and the With Chéla team from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday to watch the Senators-Rangers game on TV at the Nash Street restaurant and chow down on wings.

“But mainly we are door knocking and have a registration service and interviews set up at the arena until Sunday afternoon,” Breckon said.

The team wants to help anyone who hasn’t registered for the willingness study with the registration process, she said.

As an incentive, she added, “a $500 gift card prize draw will be made for anyone who signs up (for the study) before Valentine’s Day.”

The Ignace-Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation area is on the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s shortlist for hosting an eventual DGR for spent fuel from Canada’s nuclear power plants. The only other site on the shortlist is in the South Bruce area of southwestern Ontario. Site selection is set for late 2024.

The NWMO has said community willingness is an essential component to its decision on where to build the DGR.

So far, the process of determining whether Ignace would welcome a DGR has included information sessions and an NWMO-funded tour of Finland’s DGR by 10 Ignace residents, along with people from Dryden, Atikokan and Lac Seul in early November.

The Township of Ignace contracted With Chéla last year to field an engagement team to study community willingness, with a report to be tabled this summer.

Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, meanwhile, has been undergoing its own “willingness process” including on-reserve information sessions, two gatherings in Winnipeg to which all members aged 17 and up were invited, and a tour of the Finland DGR by 18 Wabigoon Lake members.

In response to concerns expressed on social media, Breckon said her team is committed to maintaining respondent confidentiality throughout the engagement study.

Interviews for the study are recorded and transcribed but kept offline on an external hard drive, she said – “so we never have a breach potential.”

The study’s “research interview protocol” is designed for confidentiality, she said.