Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between NDP types and SaskParty types.
A Policy Proposal by Dwain Lingenfelter
March 10th, 2009
Failing the People — The Wall Government and Nuclear Power
For nearly fifty years, the policy of the Saskatchewan Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and the New Democratic Party has been to support the mining of Saskatchewan uranium and the export of that uranium to other jurisdictions around the world to be used for nuclear power generation. I support that policy. A few years ago the Calvert government decided that it would pursue opportunities for value-added refining of uranium within our province, and I support that decision as well.
Today thirty one countries around the world use nuclear energy to generate electricity, many using uranium mined in Saskatchewan. Many highly developed countries such as France (75%), Finland (27%), The United Kingdom (20%), and Japan (27.5%) rely heavily on nuclear energy to generate power.
I make these points to emphasize that neither I nor the New Democratic Party enter the debate about our energy future with a closed mind toward nuclear power or any other potential energy source. It is clear to me that Saskatchewan will need a renewed commitment to energy conservation and a mix of both renewable and conventional energy sources to meet our energy needs in the immediate future. Even the European Union, whose member countries are global leaders in the area of renewable energy, envision producing only 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. Therefore, while renewable energy options such as solar, wind, geo-thermal, and biomass are an important part of Saskatchewan’s future energy plans, some conventional generation of electricity will remain necessary for the foreseeable future.
However, I do not support the construction of a nuclear reactor to generate power within Saskatchewan’s borders unless a public, transparent study has been conducted by a blue ribbon panel of independent experts, showing the people of Saskatchewan that such a project could be sustainable, from both the financial and environmental perspective. This blue ribbon panel would hold public hearings around the province so that every citizen could have their say on the future of electrical generation in Saskatchewan. The panel would explore the costs and benefits of nuclear power compared to both renewable energy options and conventional electrical generation sources such as coal, natural gas and hydro. The energy options we choose for the next twenty years will impact everything from our provincial finances to our economic growth, from our population’s health to our quality of life. These decisions cannot be made without full, public input and understanding.
The Wall government has refused to let the people of Saskatchewan help plan their own energy future. It has stumbled and bumbled into a flawed process that clearly favours a single new energy source, provided by a single, private sector player, while freezing out the people of Saskatchewan.
Much of the Wall government’s information about the nuclear power option has been based on a feasibility study commissioned by the very company that proposes to build the nuclear power plant. This is a little like commissioning General Motors to ask if you really need to buy a new car.
The Wall government’s special committee reviewing the nuclear option, the $3 Million Uranium Development Partnership, has conducted its work behind closed doors, is dominated by nuclear proponents and has a limited mandate by the government’s own admission to “make recommendations on Saskatchewan-based value-added opportunities in the uranium industry”. Where is the comprehensive, even-handed, public review of all the energy options available to the people of Saskatchewan?
Meanwhile, the Wall government is negotiating in private with a single private sector company (Bruce Power) about the potential for a Saskatchewan-based nuclear reactor. How can we trust the Wall government to negotiate such a complex agreement on our behalf, when this same government mishandled the annual purchase of natural gas supplies for SaskEnergy customers this winter, requiring us all to pay $55 Million more than necessary for natural gas?
Even worse, the power company owned by the people of the province, SaskPower, has been reduced to an observer’s role in these closed-door discussions. Meanwhile, Bruce Power has been running extensive advertising in favour of nuclear power throughout Northwestern Saskatchewan, where they say they would like to locate a nuclear power reactor. In the Lloydminster area, local farmers have been visited by Land Agents working on behalf of Bruce Power. These agents are attempting to take out options on land in the area, while trying to swear local landowners to secrecy. Why would this type of activity be underway if the Wall government truly intended to have a public, comprehensive review of all the energy options open to Saskatchewan people?
As the Bishops of the Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Catholic Churches in Saskatchewan said in a joint statement recently: “It is critical that any recommendations be made only after full and open consultation with the people of this province.”
This is just one more reason why Saskatchewan people want public hearings, full transparency and widespread public involvement, before any deals or Letters of Understanding are signed with any potential supplier of new power generation.
I see much more support across the province for additional conservation measures before any new power generation is decided upon. While we have made strides in this area in recent years, there is much more that can and should be done. I also see growing support for building renewable power generation (wind, solar, geo-thermal and biomass) in Saskatchewan communities, perhaps producing up to 10 megawatts of power each, and selling their excess generation to SaskPower. If the provincial government supported renewable power generation of this size in 30 communities across the province, we would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels for power generation, empower local communities to build a greener future, and still provide SaskPower with the additional generating capacity needed to serve our growing economy over the next few years.
The Wall government is failing the people of Saskatchewan by refusing to have a comprehensive, public review of our future energy needs. Energy decisions are too important for politicians alone. We must find ways to involve all the people of the province in making these decisions.