A new partnership will see the largest nuclear power plant in Canada share revenue from the sale of a medical isotope with two First Nations in Ontario.

The agreement between Saugeen Ojibway Nation and Bruce Power — known as Gamzook’aamin aakoziwin — Fighting Cancer Together — is a step toward reconciliation following decades of discord over the development of the plant.

The discord began in the 1960s, when Ottawa and Queen’s Park built Canada’s largest nuclear power plant, located 230 kilometres northwest of Toronto, without consultation or the free, prior and informed consent of the Chippewas of Nawah Unceded First Nation and Saugeen First Nation.

Now, Bruce Power and Saugeen Ojibway Nation, which represents the two First Nations, along with other industry leaders and experts, will partner to promote the medical isotope lutetium-177, used as a radiation therapy to treat neuroendocrine tumours and prostate cancer.

The deal is part of the energy company’s economic development agreement with local Indigenous communities, Mike Rencheck, Bruce Power’s CEO, explained.

When lutetium-177 is in full production, the First Nations will receive an annual return on investment to be shared equally between the two.

It’s unclear what percentage of the revenue will be allocated to the First Nations for their economic development projects. However, Rencheck believes the amount generated will reach anywhere between the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the marketing and sale of the isotope.

“We are proud to be part of this innovative project, which will deliver benefits beyond the local community to people across the world in the global fight against cancer,” Chief Conrad Ritchie of the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation, said in a news release.

In a news release, Bruce Power said it can supply the global marketplace with lutetium-177. Currently, the power company supplies half of the global market’s cobalt-60, a radioactive isotope used to sterilize medical equipment and personal protective equipment.

Bruce Power CEO Mike Rencheck believes the amount generated for the Saugeen Ojibway Nation will reach anywhere between the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the marketing and sale of an isotope used to treat cancer.

The production of lutetium-177 will not be a new source of nuclear waste, as all materials are used for patients or recycled to create more isotopes, according to Bruce Power’s website.

The agreement also includes Indigenous nations in the development of the sale of the isotope through an oversight committee with representatives from the Saugeen Ojibway Nation. The committee will review and provide input on annual work plans, progress and financial reports, and evaluate new opportunities for the partnership.

Rencheck also points to other initiatives like the Indigenous employee network, which has hired more than 300 people over the past few years. It’s all part of a mutual knowledge-sharing relationship for Renchek.

“It's a two-way street; underneath these same protocols, the Saugeen Ojibway Nation helps us understand that traditional knowledge of the land,” Rencheck said.

Still, nuclear power remains a contentious issue for many Indigenous communities. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization, a Canadian non-profit tapped to address the disposal of used nuclear fuel, will select a site to store Canada’s nuclear waste roughly 500 feet underground in a deep geological repository in 2024.

South Bruce, the region where the nuclear power generator sits, is one of two site locations, along with Ignace, Ont., located 250 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay.

In April, Lester Anoquot, former chief of Saugeen First Nation, said that living near the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, he is not opposed to finding a solution for nuclear waste, but he’s worried about the environment, future generations and whether there will be meaningful dialogue about the development of the repository.

“Just throwing money at a consultation process doesn't do that. It actually means sitting down and having those hard conversations with one another,” he said at the time.

Matteo Cimellaro / Canada’s National Observer / Local Journalism Initiative