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Ignace-area delegation to visit Finland's nuclear waste repository

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization has paid for trips by groups from Wabigoon Lake First Nation and South Bruce.
After a visit to Finland in June by a group from Wabigoon Lake First Nation, 18 people from the South Bruce area in southern Ontario toured Finland's new nuclear waste storage facility in July ((Municipality of South Bruce photo)

Representatives of the Ignace area will fly to Finland this fall to tour the world's first underground used nuclear fuel storage facility.

Approximately 18 people are expected make the trip in November at the expense of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO).

Separately this summer, a delegation of about 20 residents of Wabigoon Lake First Nation, and a group from South Bruce in southern Ontario, have already visited the Onkalo Spent Fuel Repository.

It's located 400 to 430 metres underground on the Gulf of Bothnia about a three-hour drive northwest of Helsinki, and is expected to go into operation next year.

Ignace and South Bruce are the only remaining candidates for hosting a similar deep geological storage site for Canada's nuclear waste.

No one from the Township of Ignace was available last week to speak about the trip, as the municipality has hired a public relations firm to handle communications with the news media about various issues.

Jake Pastore of Summit PCG said about six people from the township itself will likely participate, including council members and some municipal staff.

According to the NWMO, other communities near Ignace, including Dryden and possibly some First Nations, will also be represented.

Pastore described it as an information-finding and knowledge-based trip.

"They'll be collecting as much data as they can, talking with the mayors in some of the communities in Finland...So they can go through this willingness process and be in a position to share information with residents and ratepayers, because there are a lot of questions about that, and I think that's what they're after."

NWMO spokesperson Vince Ponka said it's important that people in the region have a complete understanding of the Finnish project and what it actually looks like now that it's largely completed.

"They're far enough along that you can actually go down into the repository and take a look at some of the huge tunnels. They are large enough that they have dump trucks driving through them. I think it just helps give people a better understanding of the scale of this project, and  counteracts a lot of the information out there, that this is like a 'dump and abandonment' kind of issue."

Ponka said the visit should also show how safe the storage site has been designed to be.

He said South Bruce residents will hear details about what their delegation learned in Finland at an upcoming council meeting.

An announcement of the makeup of the Ignace-area delegation is still pending, but the South Bruce visitors included the community group Protect Our Waterways-No Nuclear Waste, which has called for a binding referendum.

In Northwestern Ontario, the coalition We the Nuclear-free North is leading a protest against building a storage site near Ignace.

Ignace council passed a resolution in June to continue the township's participation in the selection process. 

NWMO expects to choose between Ignace and South Bruce late next year. 

It's provided each community with millions of dollars to spend on municipal infrastructure improvements of their choice.

— TBNewswatch