The agency searching for a location for an underground storage facility for about three million spent nuclear-fuel rods says it has reached a “milestone” in regard to one of the potential sites on its narrowed short list.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization said on Oct. 15 that it has added about 200 acres to its potential South Bruce location in southwestern Ontario by acquiring more land, bringing the total parcel being explored there to 1,500 acres.

“This is an important milestone in South Bruce, and an expression of confidence in the project,” site selection vice-president Mahrez Ben Belfadhel, of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, said in a news release.

“We are thankful for the continued interest in our land access process, and know there is much more to do as we work toward assessing the potential suitability of the site.”

Exploratory boreholes will be drilled in April, 2021.

“Discussions with local landowners in the vicinity of the potential site will continue over the coming months and years,” Ben Belfadhel said.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization hasn’t said how much it paid for the additional 200 acres, but has said the agency is open to providing compensation if the existence of a nuclear storage facility adversely affects property values.

The only other potential site being explored and drilled is located about 35 kilometres west of Ignace, south of Highway 17 and on the traditional lands of Wabigoon Lake First Nation.

The nuclear waste group wants to announce a site for its so-called deep geological repository by 2023. The facility, which would cost $23 billion to build, would be operational by 2035 and account for 800 jobs.

The fuel rods, which are about the size of a fire log, are used to power nuclear reactors. Some believe the South Bruce location will get the nod because it is close to the Bruce Power nuclear generating station near Lake Huron, and in an area populated with people who are familiar with, and employed by, the nuclear industry.

Grand Council Treaty 3, whose traditional territory includes the proposed site west of Ignace, has yet to take a position for or against the nuclear waste project.

Wabigoon Lake has also not made a decision, but has been participating in the exploration of the site near Ignace.

“We value our responsibility to the land, while learning more about the proposed project,” the band said in an earlier statement.

Preliminary drilling on the Ignace-area site has shown the underground rock is likely stable enough to host a repository.