Saturday, November 29, 2008

Haldimand "Saskatchewan Party decided on Nuclear Power"

Sask. Party decided on nuclear power: NDP
James Wood, The StarPhoenix
Published: Friday, November 28, 2008

REGINA -- Bruce Power's pitch for a potential nuclear power plant in the province has found a receptive audience -- at the least -- in the Saskatchewan Party government, say some observers.

On Thursday, the Ontario-based private nuclear operator released in Saskatoon a feasibility study that sees nuclear power playing a role in Saskatchewan in 2020.

"I think there's a lot of desire in the part of the current government to proceed down that way," said Ken Rasmussen of the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.

"It's something big, it's something bold, it's something that will fundamentally alter the nature of politics in this province in a pretty fundamental way."

Rasmussen said the roots of Sask. Party interest in nuclear power likely stem from a view that it will spur economic development by boosting the province's uranium industry and potentially leading to power exports.

But as a type of energy that does not emit greenhouse-gas emissions, it is also seen increasingly as a solution to Saskatchewan's woeful climate change record.

That connection to the climate change issue has also seemingly translated into increased public support for the nuclear concept, which past governments were lacking, said Rasmussen.

But the NDP said the government has crossed the line by taking an active role in the sales pitch to the public.

Opposition Leader Lorne Calvert said the government is clearly following a strategy to normalize the concept and smooth the way for nuclear power in Saskatchewan.

That's included Premier Brad Wall's increasing portrayal of the Sask. Party's campaign promise to explore "value-added opportunities" for uranium as a mandate for nuclear power in the province, the appointment of a nuclear industry-heavy panel to explore the development of uranium resources and a private member's motion by Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison for the legislature to consider value-added opportunities, including nuclear power generation.

Also potentially connected is Wall's recent musings about streamlining federal environmental rules where they overlap with provincial regulations, which could affect the nuclear approval process.

"(They) have a strategy in place to bring us to a decision that is already made. I believe the Sask. Party as the government of the day has taken the position that the province ought to move to the generation of electricity through nuclear power," said Calvert in an interview Thursday.

The former premier said there may be a case for nuclear power in the province but the government is taking the wrong approach.

"If it were a burning desire of mine to see a reactor built, I would want to be absolutely sure that from the very beginning this had deep public consultation so you can build a base of understanding and support because this project . . . if everything was announced tomorrow, we'd still be years away," he said.

Sask. Party Crown Corporations Minister Ken Cheveldayoff said the government has made no secret of its interest in nuclear power, especially given a growing power demand -- estimated at an additional 800 to 2,000 megawatts in the next 12 years.

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