Hundreds attend Ignace/NWMO event

IGNACE — More than 500 people checked out the Northwest Nuclear Exploration Event last Friday and Saturday at the Ignace Recreation Centre, according to the township.

“Words alone cannot explain the excitement and joy we had as a township to host one of the most important nuclear learning events that this community has ever witnessed,” Mayor Kim Baigrie said in a news release.

Giving thanks to all who made the event a success, she made particular mention of Daila Delescaille and Andi Davenport for their Saturday afternoon presentation as Ignace “youth representatives.”

“Their thoughtful and meaningful presentation on the potential environmental and economic impact of this project to their generation was delightful and left community members with some very important information and a sense of responsibility for the future,” Baigrie said.

The event’s exhibitors included the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Environment North, We the Nuclear Free North, the Township of Ignace and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), which had many of the information tables and financed the event through a Community Well-Being Fund for Ignace.

A site west of Ignace near Revell Lake is on the NWMO’s shortlist for the location of a proposed deep geological repository, a facility hundreds of metres below ground level where nuclear waste would be stored.

The NWMO has said it will choose between the Revell Lake site and a location near Lake Huron in southwestern Ontario by year-end.

Because “community willingness” is a key criterion for choosing the repository’s location, Ignace is undergoing what it calls a willingness process to gauge the level of community support for the NWMO’s project.

The exploration event was the latest part of that willingness process, which will continue April 26-30 with an online and in-person community vote on the township’s participation in the project.

A report on the level of community willingness is to be presented to a township committee in June, and the Ignace council has agreed to let the NWMO know by the end of July whether it wishes to proceed.

The NWMO has said the underground repository, wherever it is built, won’t be fully constructed until about 2034.

We the Nuclear Free North’s Wendy O’Connor said Monday the nuclear exploration event was “well organized and well attended.”

One highlight was Saturday’s All Voices panel including representatives of Northwatch and Environment North, she added.

“We see the great attendance at the All Voices panel discussion as a sign that there is an appetite in Ignace for more information from organizations that oppose the NWMO’s proposed project between Ignace and Dryden,” O’Connor stated in an email.

The exploration event kicked off Friday morning with a smudging ceremony led by Donna Chief of Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, which will be the deep geological repository’s other host community if the NWMO chooses the Revell Lake site.

Saturday’s activities started with a free breakfast hosted by Baigrie with the mayors of Pinawa, Man., and Clarington, Ont., as honoured guests.

Pinawa is the former home of an experimental reactor. Clarington hosts Ontario Power Generation’s Darlington nuclear station. Both municipalities are members of the Canadian Association of Nuclear Host Communities.

Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source