Viewpoint – Ignace Council Votes to Continue in Nuclear Waste Project Delivers a “Willingness” Decision

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We the Nuclear Free North Commentary

Ignace – Ignace has voted in favour of continuing in the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s siting process, which brings Northwestern Ontario one step closer to being put on the receiving end of all of Canada’s high-level nuclear waste.

The NWMO has said it will select a single site by the end of 2024 for a deep geological repository for Canada’s existing stockpiles and future inventory of high-level nuclear fuel waste. The project will include transportation of the waste in 2-3 trucks per day for over 50 years, then processing at the site in a still-to-be-designed waste transfer facility, and finally placement deep underground in a series of tunnels and vaults so radioactive no workers can be present during the emplacement process.

An “ad hoc willingness committee”, appointed by the Township in February, delivered its recommendation in a special meeting of Council this afternoon. Immediately after the presentation by Committee co-chair Roger Dufault, Council voted to continue in the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s site selection process.

The NWMO has been studying the Revell Site, between Ignace and Dryden, since 2010. In 2020 the NWMO narrowed its list of candidate sites to just two: the Revell Site in Northwestern Ontario and the Teeswater site in the Municipality of South Bruce in Southwestern Ontario. The Revell Site is 45 kilometres outside the Township of Ignace and is in a different watershed.

“We feel betrayed”, said Ignace resident Sheila Krahn.

“For the last ten years we’ve been bombarded with promotional messages from the NWMO, and when it was finally time for a decision, we didn’t even get a vote. I don’t believe that the majority of people in Ignace support this project, but so many people didn’t trust the so-called “willingness process” and didn’t participate.”

Instead of a referendum such as the one scheduled for South Bruce on October 28th, Ignace hired a consultant to conduct interviews and run an online poll. The online registration required scans of government ID and asked residents if they supported continuing in the NWMO siting process, rather than asking a more direct question about whether they agreed with the NWMO’s project.

“The NWMO siting process is all about getting to “yes”, so they can claim some semblance of public support”, explained Northwatch spokesperson Brennain Lloyd.

“They missed the mark with this one. They’ve spent an estimated $10 million of electricity ratepayers’ money trying to convince Ignace to support their nuclear waste project, but at the end of the day what they bought was a questionable outcome from a largely unelected council of a community that has no authority and is not even in the same watershed as the NWMO’s candidate site.

The NWMO has deemed Ignace to be the “host community”, despite Ignace’s distance from the site, lack of jurisdiction, and the presence of other communities closer to the site and downstream. In 2020 the Township of Ignace passed a resolution that the Township itself would make the decision on behalf of the people of Ignace, rather than holding a referendum, as the Municipality of South Bruce will carry out on October 28, 2024. In 2023 the Township hired the consulting firm With Chela Inc., which conducted a number of interviews and held an online poll. The consultant’s report was presented in-camera to Ignace’s “Ad Hoc Willingness Committee”, which had been selected and appointed by the Council in February. This “ad hoc” committee recommendation to Council, presented today, is to stay in the NWMO siting process. Minutes later Council voted to accept the recommendation, committing the current and future councils to adhering to the terms and conditions of a “hosting agreement” signed by the Township of Ignace and the NWMO in March 2024.

“At minimum this should be a regional decision, not the decision of one small upstream council”, added Wendy O’Connor, a volunteer with the northern Ontario alliance We the Nuclear Free North.

“There is a growing list of municipalities and First Nations passing resolutions against the NWMO using northern Ontario as the dumping ground for high-level nuclear waste. It will be astounding to see the NWMO select the Revell site, despite the poor decision made by the Ignace Township Council today”.

There is broad opposition to the NWMO project from individuals, community and citizens’ groups, municipalities, and First Nations. In addition to criticism of the project itself due to the negative impacts on the environment and human health during transportation and operation and after radioactive waste abandonment, the NWMO siting process and the Township of Ignace’s approach have also been soundly criticized for being secretive, undemocratic, and lacking scientific and technical rigour.

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