by James Wood
April 15, 2011
Premier Brad Wall says Saskatchewan residents haven’t warmed to the idea of storing nuclear waste in the province and it is highly unlikely the government would allow such a facility to be built. Wall made the comments Thursday after a petition with more than 4,500 signatures opposing a nuclear waste facility was presented in the provincial legislature.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is eyeing Saskatchewan as apotential site for underground storage of nuclear waste, although a decision is likely a decade away. Three northern communities have expressed interest as a possible host. While Wall’s Saskatchewan Party government has been bullish on “adding value” to the province’s large reserves of uranium, it has said in the past negative public opinion has ruled out a nuclear waste facility. “I don’t sense the mood of the province has changed and frankly, what’s happened in Japan has got people thinking, just generally speaking, about the issue,” Wall told reporters.
“This would be very much a provincial issue and while we would respect the fact that different communities do want this, there should be a sense that the province in general is supportive and I don’t have that sense,” he added.
The petition by the Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan calls for a halt to any further expansion of the nuclear industry in Saskatchewan and legislation banning interim or permanent storage of nuclear waste.
Wall said it is not something the government has contemplated but he would not rule out such a law on nuclear waste in Saskatchewan. The government has embarked on a new nuclear agenda that includes a focus on nuclear medicine and research into the feasibility of small reactors for power production. In 2009 it rejected a proposal from Bruce Power to develop two, 1,000 megawatt reactors as too large and expensive for Saskatchewan.
The Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan news release said beyond the reactor decision, the Sask. Party has ignored concerns around the expansion of the nuclear industry in the province. “Strong opposition to the uranium industry exists in the province. Active citizens successfully halted a proposed uranium refinery at Warman in 1979 and more recently, were instrumental in killing the proposal by Bruce Power to build a nuclear power plant here.
Today, we fight to keep Saskatchewan from becoming the nuclear waste dump for North America,” the release reads in part. NDP MLA Pat Atkinson presented the group’s petition to the legislature. The NDP is officially opposed to the storage of nuclear waste in Saskatchewan and its transportation through the province. The previous NDP government was opposed to a nuclear waste facility but had sought the expansion of the nuclear industry in areas such as uranium mining and refining.
The full petition is at variance with some parts of NDP policy, acknowledged Atkinson, but “in terms of democracy all voices in the province need to be heard by members of the legislature.” Meanwhile, Jerry Grandey, CEO of uranium miner Cameco Corp., told reporters in Saskatoon Thursday that it’s a good thing some provincial communities are wanting to study the idea of nuclear waste storage, which he called a “tremendous opportunity.”