The incoming executive in charge of overseeing site selection regarding a potential underground storage facility for spent nuclear-fuel rods says consultation with affected neighbouring communities will be paramount.

The potential facility “cannot and will not go forward without the informed and willing consent of potential host communities,” Lise Morton said on Jan. 29, in a Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) news release.

“We must work together with Indigenous communities, municipalities and area residents to implement Canada’s plan (for a storage site).”

She added: “Quite simply, we can’t do it without them, so I look forward to engaging with leaders in both siting areas to define what partnership and willingness (to accept a site) could look like.”

Morton starts her new position on March 15, taking over from Mahrez Ben Belfadhel, who is retiring, the agency said.

Morton is coming to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization from Ontario Power Generation, the provincial agency that oversees the province’s nuclear, hydro-electric power, gas, biomass and solar power stations. At OPG, Morton was in charge of the branch that managed that agency’s nuclear waste.

Morton “is an accomplished leader with experience in nuclear operations, maintenance, engineering and leadership roles, including more than 20 years in the area of nuclear waste management,” NWMO chief executive officer Laurie Swami said in a news release.

One of two sites remaining in Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s search for a potential underground storage facility will permanently house three million spent nuclear-fuel rods.

One candidate site is in South Bruce in southwestern Ontario near an existing nuclear station; the other 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 Management Organization 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.