Monday, December 01, 2008

Bruce Power nuclear feasibility study lacks details on clean energy hub, electricity infrastructure requirements, public concerns and consultation

Bruce Power president Duncan Hawthorne (right) presents results of a feasibility study to Saskatchewan Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart on Nov. 27, 2008 in Saskatoon. (Photo: Richard Marjan, SP)

As expected Bruce Power’s feasibility study on the potential of bringing nuclear energy to Saskatchewan highlights the impact a nuclear facility would have on the province’s economy, but it also lacks details on several important issues, some of which the company promised would be in the report.

Bruce Power launched the feasibility study on June 17, 2008, in Saskatoon, and said it would be complete by the end of the year. In a new release the company said it “plans to liaise with SaskPower to evaluate electricity demand projections for the province and examine what transmission upgrades or enhancements would be required to accommodate new nuclear units.”

The competed study released on Nov. 27, 2008, does not contain any meaningful information on this hugely expensive subject. Page seven of the report only states that “electricity infrastructure” would need to be “upgraded over the next decade.”

The company’s Nov. 27 news release states that “With the feasibility study now complete, the company will work with SaskPower to investigate the following issues:

– Future power demand;

– Improvements to Saskatchewan’s electrical grid; and

– The potential role nuclear power could play in both the province’s energy mix and potential power export markets.”

However, Bruce Power gave no indication in June that this key part of the process would be dealt with after the feasibility study was done.

In June, the company said as part of its Saskatchewan 2020 program it “will consider… How best to integrate nuclear energy… with hydrogen, wind, solar and clean coal technologies.”

In an Aug. 6, 2008, update Bruce Power’s Saskatchewan Feasibility Study Team said that the company “would examine the possibility of establishing a clean energy hub to generate electricity and hydrogen through wind and solar” and that “this will be included in the feasibility study.”

It appears, however, that none of this information is contained in the study, which president and CEO Duncan Hawthorne said in a message on page four is “now completed.” Why is this?

In its Nov. 27 news release the company is now saying that, in December, it “will release additional information on an assessment being conducted in collaboration with the Canadian Hydrogen Association (CHA) considering the role next generation nuclear, hydrogen, wind and solar could play in the province.”

It should be noted that Bruce Power is a member of the CHA, which bills itself as “the voice of the hydrogen community in Canada” and seems to be a form of lobby group.

In June, Bruce Power said part of its study would consider “public attitudes and level of support for adding nuclear energy to the province’s current electricity supply mix.”

The company’s Aug. 6 update provided details on a poll conducted in July by POLLARA Research and Communications on behalf of Bruce Power. The firm surveyed “more than 800 Saskatchewan residents on a number of energy related issues.”

The poll revealed that 52 per cent of Saskatchewan residents support nuclear power, down from 55 per cent reported in a nation-wide poll released in Feb. 2008 by the Canadian Nuclear Association.

Bruce Power’s feasibility study appears to offer no new information on public attitudes and level of support. It seems most of the company’s four-page August update was simply cut and pasted into the final report.

It should be noted that Bruce Power did not release the wording of the questions asked by POLLARA or a detailed breakdown of how people answered. Nor has the company made available a geographic breakdown of where the 800 Saskatchewan residents lived that had been contacted. Can we expect the same secrecy in future polls?

One piece of interesting information from Bruce Power’s Aug. 6 update not included in the feasibility study were the public’s top five reasons for opposing nuclear power: safety, environmental impacts, health, waste and a general opposition to the technology. No reason is given why these findings weren’t reported in the study.

In its Aug. 6 update Bruce Power, as part of its feasibility study, said “In the coming months, we intend to gauge public support through a variety of forums. Of course, this will include public opinion polling, both province-wide and in areas that may be a potential suitable host for a nuclear facility.” The company also said it expected “to post further updates” to its website “when appropriate.”

As it turns out only one update was posted to the company’s website, the one containing results from the lone province-wide poll done by POLLARA. If Bruce Power conducted any forums or other polling it’s not included in the study.

Bruce Power’s report mentions consultation only once and that is during the Environmental Assessment (EA) phase.

“Bruce Power believes the EA process is an opportunity to consult with impacted communities and aboriginal peoples before a decision is made to progress a project,” the report states on page twenty.

According to the company’s Nov. 27 news release “Now that a region has been identified, Bruce Power will… begin meeting with community and aboriginal leaders where appropriate.”

It’s beginning to seem that only the people living in the chosen region will be consulted on a more personal level and that Saskatchewan residents living to the north or south might have to settle for province-wide polling as the main form of consultation.

On June 18, 2008, Premier Brad Wall promised that all public opinion on the issue will be heard and that the government would be more of regulator than an advocate in the debate. [AECL eyes reactor build (StarPhoenix, June 19, 2008)]

It remains to be seen what this exactly means and who will be doing the consulting, but clearly the government had already broken the second part of Wall’s pledge.

In Bruce Power’s June 17 news release Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart said “Saskatchewan needs clean, affordable and reliable power to meet the future needs of a growing province. We would like to welcome Bruce Power to our province and look forward to the results of the Saskatchewan 2020 feasibility study, which we hope will lead to the creation of a nuclear option for our province.” If this isn’t advocating for nuclear power then what is?

Stewart’s comments would also seem to be at odds with Ken Cheveldayoff, the minister responsible for the Crowns, who said recently that the government has made no firm decision on moving forward with nuclear power. [Firm touts nuclear plant (StarPhoenix, Nov. 28, 2008)]

The wooing of community leaders in the region appears to be well under way as well. On Nov. 17, 2008, The Prince Albert Daily Herald reported that Mayor Jim Scarrow, Prince Albert Chamber of Commerce President Allan Hopkins, Director of Economic Development and Planning Joan Corneil and Larry Fladager, Director of SIAST’s Woodland Campus participated in a Nov. 2-4 tour of Bruce Power facilities in Ontario. [Prince Albert pondering nuclear power plant (Daily Herald, Nov. 17, 2008)]

Meanwhile, the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) and its 12 chiefs have been, and will continue to be, in talks with Bruce Power about a potential nuclear power plant in the area.

“There’s no doubt about it that the Prince Albert Grand Council executive along with the 12 chiefs will be sending a delegation down for a site visit for sure,” said Johnny Walker, the council’s CEO.

The PAGC sent a formal invitation to Bruce Power to make a two-hour presentation to the council and 12 chiefs on Dec. 4, according to Walker. [PAGC active in talks with Bruce Power (Daily Herald, Nov. 17, 2008)]

In the last five months The StarPhoenix has published two editorials supporting nuclear power in Saskatchewan. The first was on June 18, 2008, immediately after Bruce Power launched its study, and the second on Dec. 1, 2008, when the report was released. If The StarPhoenix’s treatment of people opposed to the BC-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) is any indication then opponents of nuclear power can expect to be belittled and vilified at every turn.

By the time the public gets its say it’ll likely be too late, if it isn’t already.


Uranium Development Partnership Update

In October, the Saskatchewan Party government established the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) with a mandate to identify, evaluate and make recommendations on opportunities for value added development of our uranium industry. Part of the UDP mandate is an evaluation of nuclear power generation. At the time, nine of the twelve members appeared to be pro-development. It now seems that number has risen to ten.

In the article Sides weigh in on nuclear power in Sask. (Leader-Post, Nov. 29, 2008) Cassandra Kyle and Angela Hall reported that a union representing Saskatchewan electrical workers is welcoming a Bruce Power feasibility study that indicates the province could support a nuclear power plant.

The nuclear option could help ensure future power demand is met and also be good for jobs and the environment, said Neil Collins, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2067.

The IBEW noted the facility could mean 1,000 long-term jobs, plus many more during the construction phase.

Collins’s local has nearly 1,700 members in Saskatchewan, including electrical workers in the operating, maintenance and line staff with SaskPower.

Kyle and Hall failed to mention that Mr. Collins is a member of the UDP.


At 5:20 PM, Blogger John Clark said...

The US is going to be short of 70,000 MW of electricity in a few very short years! This is an important market for Saskatchewan. In their planned partnership with Bruce would return billions of dollars to the province annually!

The power lines will be structured for export to the US while. This power grid would be export and import enabling. I would think they will use the current link with Alberta.
This has a fight going in Alberta about who should pay for lines built for export.

Bruce has an excellent history and a record of excellent service. I have been supportive of them since their entry into the Alberta market.


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