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NWMO reveals concepts for Centre of Expertise in Ignace

A $21-million Centre of Expertise will accompany deep geological repository for nuclear waste

IGNACE, Ont.— The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has unveiled its newest project, a $21-million facility for scientists and experts to continue their research on nuclear waste management and a wide variety of disciplines.

The Centre of Expertise will be located in either Ignace or South Bruce, depending on which will of the two is selected as host community for the deep geological repository to house spent nuclear fuel.

According to NWMO partnership manager Mac Potter, “the Centre of Expertise is a key commitment as part of the Adaptive Phase Management project. It is a long-term investment within the community and the township of Ignace. It is a technological demonstration program, first and foremost. The staff and leadership will be housed within the facility itself. But within that context, we want to weave the values of the community in which we operate.”

Potter explains that the Centre of Expertise will be 100,000 square feet, and the design is intended to reflect the landscape of northwestern Ontario.

“That’s trees, water, and rock,” said Porter. “And that’s the intent of the facility with that expansive glass facade, but also that garnet overlaying that design. In terms of the principles, it will be a living building, a living roof, and those peers will each house those different hubs whether it will be training, the NWMO facilities, the demonstration facilities, and the cultural and heritage aspects that are part of the facility.”   

Potter also stated each hub within the facility will be shaped by the host community, which is why NWMO is asking each community for public feedback on the latest conceptual architectural drawings of the Centre of Expertise.

Once completed, the number of employees that will work inside the facility will increase over time. In the initial phase, Potter explains that the NWMO hub will employ between 160 and 200 employees that will be transitioned from Southern Ontario to the Centre of Expertise and the DGR.

“That is a key commitment as part of our project,” said Potter. “Both establishing a management perspective with those who are actively working on site as part of the facility. That’s the first phase. Then you are looking at a long-term operational base for extended monitoring for the life of the project. That’s a key aspect for the project, is to bring those jobs to the community.”

Potter said each hub not only serves the interest of NWMO, but the surrounding communities. For example, he suggested the training and educational hub could be utilized by local institutions in Thunder Bay and the region. Community partners will have full access to the facility to further their research in a variety of disciplines.

“As an international and global facility, we want to highlight northwestern Ontario,” said Potter. “I’m proud of where we live. I know the people in Ignace are proud of where we live, and we want to reflect that.

"The NWMO hub will be housing the NWMO staff, the facility, and also technological demonstration programs and engineering test facilities to support the deep geological repository, but more importantly, it will provide an avenue for those staffing at this facility to see what we are building.

"It’s Canada’s project, but we want to make sure that public school has the ability to come there and touch what is getting built. Maybe get them into a STEM program, and drive that knowledge in terms of building it because the fabric of what builds a project, and this is a generational project.”

The final hub is the commercial hub, which will maintain the facility.

“We are a long-term partner within the community, and we have to operate like that,” said Potter. “Seeking that public opinion, the programming, because programming is the glue that holds an operational building together.”

Site selection will commence in late 2024, and once the site has been selected, the construction of the Centre of Expertise will begin in 2026.

“Good, bad, or indifferent, I want to hear from people,” Potter said. “If people don’t like the design, I want to hear. If people have big concerns — I know people have raised concerns about the geese. That’s a big part of the dialogue. I want to ensure that they know what’s happening in the region. I encourage everybody to go online, complete the survey, and make sure your comments are heard."

Area residents can share their feedback at the open house events in the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation-Ignace area or via an online survey until Oct. 31, 2022.

— NWOnewswatch