Saskatoon newspaper pulls in a ringer to smooth it over

Apparently, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix has experienced a bit of grief over their nasty editorial of May 8. They’ve pulled in a ringer, Murray Mandryk, from their sister paper, the Regina Leader-Post, to quell the fires. Here’s his piece, reproduced in its entirety here because it is a voice of reason. That said, his focus is too narrow. We need an open, honest and thorough debate about Saskatchewan’s energy policy, not just about nukes.

Neither party fit to oversee reactor
Murray Mandryk, Saskatchewan News Network; Regina Leader-Post
Published: Friday, May 09, 2008

If ever an issue in Saskatchewan needed open, honest and thorough debate, it’s the building of a nuclear reactor.

That neither side in the legislative assembly has been willing to provide us with the even the most basic information about the reactor — information already compiled at the taxpayers’ expense — is more disconcerting than talk of a reactor, itself.

This issue is all about trust. It’s about answering basic questions such as: Where will it be built? Who will build it? How much will it cost taxpayers? What are the potential environmental impacts? What are the benefits? What are the potential risks, especially to the water supply?

Instead, what we have had is duplicity and deception from the NDP and Saskatchewan Party both.

Let’s review what neither side wanted us to know:

The NDP government received in February 2007 a rudimentary study that determined the preferred location for a nuclear power plant is the east side of Diefenbaker Lake, near Elbow. The negatives are its proximity to populated areas and fact that the lake provides the water used by 40 per cent of Saskatchewan households.

But what’s alarming about this 53-page, $60,000 study is that, until a copy of the report was leaked to the CBC, the former New Democratic government didn’t think we needed to know about it. In fact, it wouldn’t even confirm in its last eight months in office that such a study existed.

According to former premier Lorne Calvert, there was no need to do so because his government was focused on wind power and had no intention of building a reactor. Yet deputy NDP leader and former Crown corporations minister Pat Atkinson, who admitted Wednesday she hadn’t even read the study, said her government actually never had ruled out building a nuclear power plant.

As farfetched as her response seems, it is consistent with the words of former deputy premier Clay Serby, who said in October 2005:

“We should never say never about anything.”

But lest anyone is left with the impression that secrecy and duplicity begin and end with the New Democrats, let’s check the Saskatchewan Party’s equally unimpressive handling of the nuclear file to date.

Despite an initial commitment from Premier Brad Wall that any previous studies on nuclear power generation would be made public, the government no longer sees it as a priority to tell us that the preferred site to build a nuclear plant is one that provides water for 40 per cent of province’s population. Far more important, we’re told, are the confidentiality agreements signed by the NDP government to keep this report secret in the first place.

However, the confidentiality provision didn’t apply to Saskatchewan Party ministers such as Lyle Stewart (Enterprise and Innovation), Nancy Heppner (Environment) and Bill Boyd (Energy), all of whom had access to this document for the past six months.

Unfortunately, like Atkinson, they never read it, either. Heppner even claimed she couldn’t find a copy. Let’s be thankful someone found one for the CBC.

Through the magic of this newfangled Internet, the report now can be shared with Atkinson, Heppner, Boyd and even the rest of us among the uninformed masses.

Of course, his complete lack of basic information about a site for nuclear power generation was not the kind of impediment that would prevent Boyd from meeting in Alberta with officials from Bruce Power to make a case that Saskatchewan is a better home for a 4,000-megawatt nuclear plant than is Alberta’s Peace River region.

Boyd tells us not to be alarmed because these discussions are exceedingly preliminary. But Crowns Minister Ken Cheveldayoff then tells us Thursday there isn’t time to hold a referendum on nuclear power because his government will have to make a decision before the next election, slated for 2011.

Through all of this, we’re still supposed to trust the good judgment of these people — politicians who don’t think voters need to have the most basic information on nuclear power in Saskatchewan or even feel any need to read this information themselves.

Far more frightening than a nuclear power plant in Saskatchewan is the thought of either side of the legislature being in charge of running it.

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So much for journalistic integrity…

The editorial board at the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, a CanWest newspaper, published nothing less than a rant on the issue of nuclear power in Saskatchewan, denouncing nuclear-free activists as an “anti-nuke gang,” a “bunch of radicals” who prevented the “dream of developing greater nuclear capacity in the province” from coming to fruition in the 1980’s.

Well, yes, frankly, it is true that the no-nukers did stop the development of a refinery just south of Saskatoon back then. And thank goodness for that! But they didn’t manage to stop the mining of uranium. And they surely did not stop industry from propagandizing throughout the province. In fact, they’ve done it so well that even the daily newspaper is singing the praises of nuclear power, quoting political deviants and corporate friends. Go ahead and read it for yourself.

Then go here and send your letter to the editor. If you need more information about uranium and the nuclear system, feel free to use the search function in the sidebar of P’n’P. We’ve managed to build up quite a collection of info from independent researchers, organizations and informed opinions over our almost two years of blogging.

Oh, and if you’d like a more balanced, though still not thorough, story about the possible reactor check out the CBC’s coverage. It’s report provides various reactions from people who live and vacation at Lake Diefenbaker, where the SaskPower study suggests the reactor might be placed.

The recommendation alarms people like Scott McKenzie, who has been vacationing in the Lake Diefenbaker area for seven years and plans to make it his home.

“It shocks me a little to begin with,” McKenzie said. “One is always worried about a catastrophe, an accident or something like that.”

However, Russ Boyle, who is building a house near the lake, doesn’t share McKenzie’s concerns. In fact, he wouldn’t mind if a nuclear facility was nearby.

I’d venture a guess that if the truth about nuclear power were placed in the hands of the people, there would be no doubt that the majority would oppose it.

I guess that’s what we’ll have to do.