Creighton is moving on to the next round of a site selection process for a proposed nuclear waste storage facility — while Pinehouse and the English River First Nation have been dropped out of the running.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization says Creighton and three communities in Ontario have been identified for more detailed study.

But Pinehouse and the English River First Nation are no longer being considered as a possible future site for a deep geological repository.

Pinehouse Community Liaison Committee chair Vince Natomagan says local officials are still trying to digest the news:

“We were quite surprised.  We generally had the notion that we had the right geological conditions in northern Saskatchewan to warrant further study.  But, apparently, according to some of the experts at the NWMO, this is not the case — so, we’re quite surprised.”

Natomagan says the polarizing nature of the local debate has been a distraction:

“Although I’m surprised, I’m half-relieved because while we’re trying to do things in our community, this divisive issue has been hitting our political agenda, if you will, at the community level.”

Natomagan says a side benefit of this pursuit was capturing the attention of the federal and provincial governments.

Two communities in Ontario — Ear Falls and Wawa — also won’t be studied further.

The NWMO says it will provide $400,000 to each of the four communities for a Community Well-Being Reserve Fund.

Meantime, the mayor of Creighton says it’s too early to know whether his community will be deemed suitable or not to host a nuclear waste repository.

Bruce Fidler says he only learned last night that the NWMO had selected Creighton for the next stage of consultations over the idea.

The mayor calls it an “excellent” development, but he stresses it’s too soon to say what it will all mean:

“It is just more of a detail-learning process, there is no commitment by the community to host this facility, and in their more detailed studies it may show up that it wouldn’t work here.”

He says he’s not sure why Creighton was chosen for the next stage, but expects to hear a lot more over the next three to four years.

Meantime, the Committee for Future Generations says it’s pleased that Pinehouse and the English River First Nation have both been dropped from consideration for the site.

Spokesperson Candyce Paul says she hopes her group’s efforts and awareness campaigns helped sway the decision.

However, Paul says they are still not satisfied, and will concentrate efforts on the Creighton area.

She says there are other communities in that area who stand to be affected, and the potential danger from an accident can’t be ignored:

“We know that the (Canadian) Shield areas are like sponges, there’s water everywhere and any mistake, any leak that goes into that water, anyone downstream is affected.”

Paul says she wouldn’t wish a nuclear waste storage site on anyone and thinks other disposal options should be explored.

Thirteen other communities in the country are in various stages of the site selection process.