Message from Laurie Swami, NWMO President and CEO
Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel is designed to be adaptive. Although we faced significant challenges navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, I am proud of the way we adapted, and confident in saying we can celebrate a year marked by progress and success.
For the past decade, the NWMO’s work has been building towards the key milestone of site selection in 2023. But site selection is not the end of our work – in many ways, it is the beginning.
In 2022, we must remain steadfast in our focus of selecting a site with informed and willing hosts, while also looking to the next phase of the project. Our progress to date will serve as a foundation. Great teamwork and a collaborative spirit will be the key to future success.
Even as we look beyond site selection, we must continue to work towards it. Vaccinations and reopening communities allowed us to meet face-to-face again – critically important to our engagement process, where safe, in-person meetings help us build a better understanding of each other. We also got our Mobile Learn More Centre on the road again, making nearly 50 stops to host engagement events. Re-establishing these connections was crucial to keeping us on the path to partnership.
We are also deepening our knowledge of the environment in our siting areas. In spring 2021, borehole drilling work restarted in the Wabigoon-Ignace area and began in the SON-South Bruce area. Before the end of the year, drilling was completed in the Wabigoon-Ignace area. Testing and analysis of core samples from both areas is now well underway. These are significant steps that will enhance our understanding of whether the siting areas can meet robust regulatory requirements.
Our Engineering team also took big strides forward this year, with significant work done to prepare us for full-scale emplacement trials in 2022 that will simulate conditions in the deep geological repository, including prototyping and testing of our innovative engineered-barrier system. That meant designing and fabricating key pieces of equipment that will be needed for the trials, such as our custom auger system that will be used to fill the small gaps left over in our placement rooms once our bentonite boxes have been placed.
This year, we continued travelling a path together with Indigenous peoples on our journey towards Reconciliation. This journey is critical to the success of our project. It is not just the right thing to do – it is also good business.
Our work on Reconciliation in 2021 included further staff training and educational opportunities, as well as interweaving insights from Indigenous Knowledge systems throughout our work. We want to ensure our journey helps others find a path forward, so we will share the insights we have gained with others in the nuclear sector and beyond. It is our great hope that they too will allow their work to be enriched by the teachings of Indigenous peoples.
We welcomed many new faces as we expanded the NWMO with 35 new employees joining us in 2021. Many did not have the chance to meet in person until our offices reopened in the fall, and that meant finding new tools to build those meaningful connections that are so essential to our work. I was impressed by the agility of our team as we adapted to new ways of working and came back stronger than ever.
As we stay focused on the details of implementing Canada’s plan, we will never lose sight of the goal that drives us – protecting people and the environment for generations to come.
I encourage you to read along with our new digital annual report, to see how the NWMO has adapted and progressed in 2021, as we remain guided by science, grounded in knowledge and committed to partnership.