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

Since early 2020, we have been focused on two potential siting areas: the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation (WLON)-Ignace area and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON)-South Bruce area (pictured), both in Ontario.

Based on years of technical study, we have determined both sites being considered for the repository could safely host the project. That conclusion was published in our 2022 Confidence in safety reports, and this year, the work continued in our intensive technical and safety assessment program to further reinforce those findings.

In 2023, we continued to gather and assess more geoscientific data, which improves our site models and confidence in site safety. This work is important for building on our technical and scientific understanding of both sites, so we can advance repository design and prepare for the regulatory decision-making process after a site is selected.

Specific work this year included advancing our three-dimensional understanding of the geosphere, meaning the rock formations around the repository. Since 2017 in the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation (WLON)-Ignace area and 2021 in the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON)-South Bruce area, we have been conducting research to further increase understanding of the areas’ geology. This has included borehole drilling and seismic surveys, activities that provide a clearer understanding of the properties beneath the surface of the earth.

Along with technical and safety assessments, we continued to share information and engage with the public. This meant working in collaboration with leading scientific and nuclear industry organizations, academia, geological surveys and regulators, as well as with the NWMO’s international Geoscientific Review Group, which reviews our geological data and site understanding.

We have shared our geological understanding of both sites with a wide variety of audiences at technical conferences, including our annual Geoscience Seminar, as well as in person, at virtual community events and through tours to the field sites in 2023.

Andy Parmenter, Director of Geoscience at the NWMO, presents at the NWMO’s annual Geoscience Seminar in 2023.

All this work has helped us prepare for the next phase of site characterization activities, which will begin once a site is selected in late 2024. Ongoing and future technical work will include further geological studies to support engineering design and safety analyses to confirm and build on the results to date.

Our technical achievements are integral to creating confidence in this project’s safety, and in turn, supporting a consent-based siting process. We’re proud of the work our team has done at the scientific and engineering level, and to support community education and engagement.

Lise Morton

Vice-President of Site Selection at the NWMO

Advancing environmental monitoring and socio-economic studies

Collecting baseline data supports our understanding of the environment before project development begins, so we can take measures to limit or avoid effects, and adapt the repository design as needed. This year, we completed reports summarizing the first year of biodiversity and environmental sampling in both the WLON-Ignace area and the SON-South Bruce area. These results were shared with the communities in both siting areas through presentations and online.

In the WLON-Ignace area, we also initiated our air monitoring program to better understand the existing characteristics of the natural environment, and completed an updated social, economic and health baseline report.

In both siting areas, these baseline studies are conducted in close collaboration with Indigenous peoples, municipalities and local residents.

Reaffirming our commitment to water and sustainability

In 2023, we reached an important milestone with the release of our Water Statement, which outlines how vital water protection is to Canada’s plan. Water protection has been a common theme in discussions with Indigenous peoples and Canadians since the NWMO’s inception in 2002.

The NWMO Water Statement begins with an acknowledgment of truths, before outlining how the NWMO is committed to water protection in all our work by considering how the agency of water (from surface to underground) may be in relationship with Canada’s planned deep geological repository and its surrounding area.

In addition to the new Water Statement, we also published our first Sustainability Statement, which provides the basis upon which short- and longer-term sustainability priorities and goals for the NWMO can be established. As we embark on our journey to manage Canada’s used nuclear fuel and intermediate-level waste, we have pledged to implement sustainable principles and practices, drawing from the best of Indigenous Knowledge and western science.

Both of these milestone documents are anchored by the NWMO’s Reconciliation Policy (2019), which outlines the importance of working with Indigenous peoples, and our Indigenous Knowledge Policy (2020), which recognizes that Indigenous Knowledge systems emphasize the interrelationships among all components of the environment.