Creating the future together – Annual Report 2023
Creating the future together – Annual Report 2023

Message from Laurie Swami, NWMO President and CEO

Our work at the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has always been about the future. Perhaps more than any other organization or project in Canada, our focus is on the very long term, to protect people and the environment for generations to come.

In a journey this multigenerational, every year counts. Looking back on 2023, our progress demonstrates not only that our work is on the right track, but also that we are ready for what is next: a new phase of Canada’s plan for used nuclear fuel, and taking on an important new mandate that closes the remaining gaps on nuclear waste management.

I have this confidence because I know that we are never working alone. Resilient relationships, dialogue and shared decision-making have been the hallmarks of how we have operated since our very inception. They have shaped our success to date and will continue to do so in the years ahead.

This year, we continued to collaborate in Canada and internationally, and use our leading technical expertise to further build our understanding ahead of a key milestone we expect to achieve in 2024: selecting a site for Canada’s deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel.

This will not be a decision the NWMO makes on our own. We depend on expertise from scientific experts, peer reviewers and Indigenous Knowledge Holders. We also have a high degree of regulatory oversight guiding our work.

Crucially, informed and willing hosts are foundational to the success of this project. In both the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation-Ignace area and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation-South Bruce area, we have been working closely with communities as they determine how they will demonstrate willingness. To that end, we took steps towards developing hosting agreements, which will set out roles, investments and expectations that we will have for each other once the site is selected, and how we move forward together in the regulatory process.

We also continued to strengthen important partnerships with our international counterparts. This included signing a new milestone Statement of Intent to Co-operate on Used Nuclear Fuel Management with the United States Department of Energy and renewing a multi-year co-operation agreement with Andra in France. We also welcomed a number of international experts to both siting areas and the NWMO’s own facilities, including a delegation from Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, signing a Letter of Intent to further our collaboration and improve on new technology. These visits are incredible opportunities to share our knowledge and best practices with international leaders in nuclear waste management and learn from them in return.

Through it all, we remained steadfast in our commitments to protecting people and the environment, including water. Our Water Statement released this year outlines this purpose as a way to reinforce its importance, and reflects our ongoing commitment to protecting water, as well as our broader Reconciliation journey. It was created with input from Indigenous peoples and aligns with Indigenous Knowledge, to ensure it was equally respected alongside western science. Similarly, our Sustainability Statement released this year acknowledges our organization’s commitment to a sustainable future.

Looking ahead, site selection will be a key turning point for Canada’s plan. It will mark the beginning of a transformation for our organization, including developing a plan to transition many of our staff to the selected siting area. This will happen alongside further site characterization activities to ensure the project is safe and that we are ready for the regulatory decision-making process, as well as new investments that contribute to community well-being. Our work to prepare for that process is already well underway. These are not small undertakings and will only be successful with continued collaboration.

I am optimistic that we are ready. The community-driven site selection process and our ongoing engagement efforts around key issues truly make Canada an international leader in this type of project. I am grateful to the communities in both siting areas, as well as all 22 communities that initially raised their hands to express their interest in learning more about the project and their potential to host it. Their time, thoughtful questions and visions for the future of their communities are what make our work successful.

All this work is incredibly important as Canada looks to build infrastructure that helps to support Canadian energy security, support the fight against climate change, and bring international partners together in a time of global uncertainty. The NWMO is regularly sought after to contribute to discussions that help advance these global priorities.

Our decades of experience have now also opened a new door for our organization to help Canada meet another important challenge: safely managing intermediate-level and non-fuel high-level radioactive waste long term. We are excited for this new endeavour and look forward to working closely with local communities, Indigenous peoples, scientific experts, international leaders, the nuclear industry, governments and others to develop the plan for the safe, long-term management of these types of waste.

Moving forward from where we are today to where we are going tomorrow will take continued collaboration. As the proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

I look forward to going far and creating the future together.

Laurie Swami
Laurie Swami
President and CEO