'My bigger fear, of course, is that now that Chalk River has popped up into the news again, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall will again attempt to sell Saskatchewan as a nuclear option and the next best place to build the new 'Chalk River' facility; even though it seems the majority of Saskatchewan residents are against nuclear reactors in the province. Mark my words, give it time, and Brad Wall will step out again saying how Saskatchewan can take over for Chalk River as Canada's isotope producer.' - Me, Yesterday.
SOURCE: CBC NEWS: Nuclear Critics Suspect Hidden Agenda in Sask. Medical Isotope Plan
SOURCE: CBC NEWS: Saskatchewan to make Federal Bid for Isotope Facility, Premier Confirms
Well, I have to say I called this one. When it was announced that Chalk River could be out of production until 2010, I predicted that our nuclear gung-ho Premier would once again poke his head up and tout Saskatchewan as a means of providing nuclear isotopes. And lo and behold, barely a day after I predicted this, it comes true.
Politics can be a nasty game sometimes, and that is what we are seeing here. Brad Wall and his government are exploiting a situation, a shortage of medical isotopes, to push towards their own nuclear agenda and I'm not the only one who feels this way. Former Professor and member of Coalition for a Green Saskatchewan Jim Penna agrees.
Penna suggests that there are ways of obtaining nuclear isotopes without a reactor, yet Premier Wall and his crew have always stated that they will look into building a reactor dedicated to the production of nuclear isotopes.
The bigger problem with this issue is that it confirms what we've all feared since the beginning: That the Saskatchewan Party Government does not care about what Saskatchewan residents have to say about nuclear power, instead they are determined to push ahead on this issue regardless.
I know what you're saying, that sounds a little callous. However, keep this in mind: The Premier has until July 31st to submit a proposal to Ottawa in regards to getting Federal help in building a new medical isotope facility in Saskatchewan. Dan Perrins, who is in charge of preparing the report in regards to citizen's opinions based on the public forums the government has held, won't file his report until August 31st.
That effectively means that the government will move ahead with a nuclear medical facility before consultations are finished and the report on public opinion is given to the Premier and his government.
To make matters worse for the Premier, even Wall's own people seem a little confused on the issue. Back when the Saskatchewan Party Government was still maintaining the illusion of actually listening to Saskatchewan Citizens and their concerns during their nuclear public consultations; Richard Florizone and others prepared a report on the feasibility of a nuclear isotope reactor in Saskatchewan.
Quote from their report: Although medical isotope production provides an attractive source of revenue for a research reactor, the economics of a stand-alone isotope reactor are not attractive. (Source: CBC News: Medical Isotopes on Saskatchewan's Radar: Premier)
The report also suggested that even though Saskatchewan could make $9 million dollars a year in profit from the reactor, there were complications over finding a location that would allow further processing of the isotopes within Saskatchewan, especially since the location would need to be at least within three hours from the isotope reactor.
As such, we would be looking at hefty travel and shipping costs for the isotopes we'd produce, the cost of which was not included or estimated by the report.
Before I continue, I feel I must hammer this point across: Wall's own people, back in June, doubted the fesibility of a reactor solely designed to produce nuclear isotopes. Well, now that it's July, how do they feel?
Richard Florizone again came out to say that the production of a medical isotope facility could be a very 'worthwhile endeavour', with no mention of the fact that little over a month ago his group reported that there would be problems with the simple reality of such a reactor in Saskatchewan.
The Opposition NDP have also voiced their concern over the speed in which Brad Wall is moving forward with this issue. Furthermore, they have also condemned the role Richard Florizone is playing in the entire ordeal. Sandra Morin, environmental critic for the NDP, pointed out that Florizone is helping to prepare the government's proposal to Ottawa, and that before that he chaired the Uranium Development Partnership, a group which seeks to further uranium development in Saskatchewan and proposed building a nuclear isotope facility.
Morin said that his involvement raises a lot of questions, and she is indeed correct in that statement.
I'm not going to speculate on Dr. Florizone's role in all of this, though I will admit I do agree with Sandra Morin that there are complicated questions that arise from his involvement, but what I will do is explain, yet again, how Saskatchewan residents are being ignored by their government.
We've had public consulations on nuclear power for quite some time now, and with this move Brad Wall has publically affirmed he doesn't care to wait to see what the people of his province have to say about all this. Furthermore, Premier Wall has gone on record saying that as far as he is concerned, the Saskatchewan Government could opt out of the program all together and leave it in the hands of the Federal Government and private investors.
Effectively, Saskatchewan is being betrayed by it's government. If the reactor goes ahead, it is only a matter of time until Premier Wall pushes for the expansion of nuclear reactors throughout Saskatchewan and makes a move to push us towards nuclear power.
The problem, as I've mentioned before on this blog, is that our expansion towards nuclear power is not for our benefit as Saskatchewan residents, but rather to help our neighbours to the South by selling excess power off our grids to them at a profit, while we take all the risks that come with nuclear development.
Furthermore, if the Saskatchewan Government opts out of the program all together and simply allows Ottawa and private investors to develop a nuclear reactor here, we will be in the same boat with Wall pushing for expansion, but there are compounded problems.
Chalk River has not been perfect, but under better governments we have seen better management of the facility. If the Saskatchewan Government opts out from the role to run a facility here, even though I oppose building one in the first place, then we run the risk of a facility that's sole purpose is to make money for it's private investors: regardless of the cost and risk that it may pose.
In closing, our government is selling us out for a few extra shillings so that when the next election comes, they can say they've pumped money back into the province at a cost we won't see for quite some time. Remember, Brad Wall studied under Grant Devine, and he too no doubt learned how to make your books look a lot better than they actual are.