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Ignace and NWMO ink 'historic' agreement

The 80-page agreement restates the township’s commitment to a “willingness process” to determine whether Ignace supports being host to a repository for nuclear waste.
Ignace Mayor Kim Baigrie, left, and NWMO president and chief executive officer Laurie Swami sign an agreement in Ignace on March 18, 2024.

IGNACE – The Northwest township on the shortlist for hosting nuclear waste storage has signed what it calls a “historic” agreement with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization.

A news release from Ignace stated, however, that the pact “in no way either guarantees that the Township will host a deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel or that a decision on willingness has been made.”

Mayor Kim Baigrie said Tuesday the people of Ignace “should be excited” about the agreement but added that whether the community should welcome the proposed repository in their area is “everyone’s choice.”

“Everyone will have their choice, you know, and that’s what I’ve always said, and that’s what I will continue to say,” she told Dougall Media.

“It is up to the people in the long run. In the end, it is up to the people if they want it or not.”

The 80-page Hosting Agreement restates the township’s commitment to a “willingness process” to determine whether Ignace supports being host to the repository.

It also commits the township to communicate its decision to the organization by July 30, 2024.

The hosting agreement also lays out financial benefits Ignace would get from the NWMO if the Ignace area is selected as site of the repository. Benefits to the township from 2024 through 2105 would total nearly $170 million in 2025 constant dollars if the site west of Ignace is selected.

Ignace was the first of 22 communities to express interest in hosting a deep geological repository – a large underground facility for storing waste from Canada’s nuclear reactors – after the NWMO began its search for a host community in 2010.

The NWMO announced in 2020 that it had narrowed down the list of potential sites for the repository to just two, in the Ignace-Wabigoon Lake area near Revell Lake and in the Saugeen-South Bruce area near Lake Huron.

Ignace is undertaking a “willingness process” to determine whether there truly is community support for hosting the repository.

The process has included learning events such as last September’s Northwest Nuclear Exploration Event at the township’s recreation centre. A similar exploration event is set for April 12-13.

Also, Ignace has sent delegations on several junkets paid for by the NWMO, including trips to:

  • Finland last November to tour that country’s world-first deep geological repository.
  • Ottawa last month for a nuclear industry conference.
  • Saskatchewan this month to tour a uranium mine and meet local officials.

A township “willingness committee” is tasked with helping residents come to a decision. A consulting firm is, meanwhile, conducting a “willingness study” to measure community support.

The township has benefited from funding agreements with the nuclear organization. Last year approximately $1.7 million of NWMO money was spent on a new fire truck, playground equipment, a 3D printer and many other things. A similar amount is allocated for this year.

Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation has been undergoing a similar willingness process with learning events, community consultation and trips paid by the NWMO.

Ignace council unanimously passed a resolution Monday authorizing Baigrie to sign the “potential hosting agreement.” Baigrie and NWMO president Laurie Swami then signed the agreement and posed for a photo with Ignace councillors.

The township’s media release says a final willingness decision will be made by council “in mid-2024.”

NWMO vice-president Lise Morton is quoted in the release as saying the new agreement “reflects the wishes and aspirations of the community – including revitalizing local investments that would create a prosperous path forward.”

The full text of the agreement has been posted at the Township of Ignace website.

Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After working at newspapers across the Prairies, Mike found where he belongs when he moved to Northwestern Ontario.
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