Uranium Development Partnership report addresses Wall government’s “three measures” test for nuclear support, public consultation a sham
In the Leader-Post on Apr. 7, Premier Brad Wall said ‘the government won’t rush into decisions on any of the [Uranium Development Partnership’s]recommendations, but he acknowledged the province needs to chart a course for future electrical generation “relatively quickly” due to looming power needs.
“The nuclear power piece has to make sense. There’s been three measures for us -- affordability, environmental sustainability and also the safety factor,” Wall said, maintaining the government has not already made a decision.’ [NDP believe public input is ‘token’ (Leader-Post, Apr. 7, 2009)]
The government’s “three measures” are outlined in a Jan. 28, Crown Investments Corporation (CIC) briefing note, entitled Uranium Value-Added Opportunities, that was released on Apr. 1 in response to an access to information request.
“Our government supports the addition of nuclear power to the provincial generation mix if it can be shown to be a cost competitive alternative to other clean energy options and if issues of public safety and environmental protection are fully addressed,” the note states.
The UDP, which the government established on Oct. 20 and stacked with pro-nuclear individuals and organizations, released its final report at a press conference in
What’s gone unnoticed, however, is that the report also appears to address the Wall government’s “three measures” test for nuclear support. Evidence of this can be found in various passages scattered throughout the document. The information can easily be used by the government to justify moving ahead with nuclear power.
The partnership report will form the basis for public consultation that is set to begin in early May and wrap up in June. It appears that any alternative viewpoints will not be considered.
On Apr. 9,
It’s interesting to note that the Minister’s Order establishing the UDP does not specifically mandate the group to research and report on cost-competitiveness, public safety and environmental protection issues. It’s not mentioned in the Oct. 20 news release and backgrounder announcing the formation of the panel either. But the material is in the group’s final report nonetheless. It appears as follows:
Executive Summary: “And – although it has high upfront capital costs – over its full life cycle, nuclear energy has proven to be cost-competitive.” (p. 1)
Chapter 4: Power generation
Key findings: “Given consensus estimates of long-term CO2e (equivalent carbon dioxide) and natural gas pricing, nuclear is a cost-competitive and low-emission power generation option.” (p. 55)
“On a pure cost basis and with realistic assumptions on future carbon pricing, nuclear power is a competitive baseload power alternative. Exhibit 4-6 depicts the relative competitiveness of the three alternatives [nuclear, natural gas and coal] under varying CO2 and natural gas prices. The competitive analysis suggests that above a carbon price of roughly $30 and a natural gas price greater than roughly $6.00/mmBTU, nuclear emerges as the most competitive option.” (p. 60)
Recommendation #12: “
Small reactors: “Commercially marketed nuclear reactors are of significant scale, with capacities greater than 1,000 MW. At these unit sizes, the costs of these reactors are competitive with alternative baseload options, including large hydro, coal, and natural gas generators.” (p. 81)
Chapter 2: Exploration and mining
Key findings: “A strong and effective licensing and environmental assessment process is paramount to ensure the safety of workers and the public, as well as to protect the environment.” (p. 37)
“The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has primary responsibility for ensuring that the public, the workers, and the environment are protected from the potential risks of nuclear activities. One aspect of the CNSC’s mandate is to review all license applications for the construction and operation of uranium mines and milling plants in
Appendix A: Health and safety considerations of nuclear power
Key findings: “Modern nuclear power plants are widely regarded as an extremely safe means of generating electricity.
– In terms of operational safety, nuclear is 10 times safer than natural gas, the next safest form of electricity generation.
– Under normal operations, worker radiation exposure is near naturally occurring levels and presents no known health risks.
– Public exposure levels from nuclear power are significantly below naturally occurring levels and come with no known health risks.
– Mitigating the threat of accident in the reactor core has been the primary focus for the industry since Generation I reactors were first introduced in 1950. Today’s Generation III(+) reactors are designed to be even safer than those in operation.” (p. 95)
Worker safety: “The nuclear power industry has the lowest direct fatality rates among power generation technologies (e.g., hydro, coal, and natural gas). One of the most comprehensive recent studies on the comparative operational safety of energy systems was done by the Paul Scherrer Institut in
“The study’s findings reveal that nuclear is the safest form of energy generation in terms of loss of human life and is 10 times safer than natural gas, the next safest form. In
“Exposure to ionizing radiation is a risk facing, nuclear power workers; however, thanks to strict worker health and safety protocols, numerous studies have shown that radiation exposure for workers in nuclear power is near naturally occurring levels and presents no health risks. The globally observed radiation exposure for workers in the uranium value chain is no more than 6 mSv per year.
“These levels are significantly below the CNSC threshold for nuclear workers set at 100 mSv in a 5-year dosimetry period, with no more than 50 mSv in any single year. No health effects from radiation have been observed in humans below about 100 mSv of exposure.” (p. 96)
Public safety: “The variation of doses over time and by geography make it difficult to summarize the average dose to the public. The UN Scientific Committee, however, suggests that the average annual dose from natural sources is 2.4 mSv. Less than 0.1 percent of radiation to the public comes from the nuclear industry.
“Despite low levels of exposure, the effects on civilians living near nuclear facilities have been the subject of extensive research. These studies, conducted in
– A 1990 study by the US National Cancer Institute examinig 62 communities with major nuclear facilities whose overall results showed no evidence of any increase in cancer.
Chapter 4: Power generation
Environment: “Nuclear power is a low-carbon generation option, whereas even a newly designed 1,000 MW coal or gas plant will respectively emit 5.4 million and 2.5 million tones of CO2 annually. Using a 1,000 MW nuclear power plant instead of a coal plant has the equivalent effect of removing 700,000 cars from the road.” (p. 59)
Appendix A: Health and safety considerations of nuclear power
Key findings: “The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is an independent governing body that provides a regulatory framework to manage all nuclear activity in the country. The CNSC also co-operates closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure that international standards are followed.” (p. 95)
“The CNSC operates as an independent agency of the Federal Government that reports to Parliament (via the Minister of Natural Resources). The agency has no role in promoting nuclear power and is split into a decision-making Commission Tribunal and a staff organization including technical experts in nuclear safety and controls.
“One of the main responsibilities of the Commission Tribunal is to run the nuclear licensing process. Before being granted a license or renewal, licensees are required to prove to the CNSC that their facility or activity is acceptably safe. The CNSC approach to safety assumes that nothing is 100 percent risk free, but that risk can be minimized through multiple layers of verifiable protection. When a facility is licensed, the staff organization supports the compliance activities (among other things) and ensures that domestic nuclear operators provide quarterly reports highlighting radioactive discharges.
“The CNSC has responsibilities outside
Of the three issues discussed cost-competitiveness and public safety are without question addressed in the UDP report. As for environmental protection this falls under the purview of regulatory bodies like the CNSC and IAEA, which the UDP explains in detail, and is something the Wall government knows quite well.
Now that the “three measures” test is out of the way perhaps the Wall government will finally come clean and confirm the province’s two worst kept secrets: that it is indeed going forward with nuclear power; and, that the public consultation process is a sham.
In the meantime, information continues to trickle in regarding the UDP and Bruce Power’s efforts to bring nuclear power to
A Jan. 28 briefing note with the heading Update on Nuclear Activities in Saskatchewan states: “Bruce Power is now in the process of identifying a suitable site for a proposed power station of two 1000 megawatt reactors. This will be followed by a proposed Environmental Assessment beginning in the spring of 2009. This follows its announcement in November 2008 summarizing the results of its feasibility study. The feasibility study concluded that nuclear power is viable in
What’s not clear is whether the announcement of the environmental assessment and the government’s response to Bruce Power will come before or after the public consultation process. Given the premier’s statement that the province needs to chart a course “relatively quickly” it seems that waiting for Mr. Perrins to submit his final report, which is due by Aug. 31, is out of the question. Making any announcement prior to Perrins releasing his report would undermine the credibility of the public consultation process even further.
In other Bruce Power news, the CBC reported on Apr. 9 that the power company has signed an agreement with the union that represents workers at SaskPower.
According to the article
The story states: ‘Earlier this month, the union sent its members a copy of an agreement signed by Bruce Power president Duncan Hawthorne and IBEW Local 2067 business manager Neil Collins.
‘The union says the letter of agreement indicates that if Bruce Power builds a nuclear power plant in
‘The letter between Bruce Power and IBEW said a key issue is “that current IBEW Local 2067 members employed at existing generating facilities are not negatively impacted.”
‘As part of that agreement, the union agreed to advocate for nuclear power as the primary alternative for
‘The union also agreed to work with Bruce Power on what it calls a “communications protocol” in order to “manage” communications around nuclear power.
‘“As part of the communications protocol, Bruce Power and IBEW Local 2067 will agree on how to best produce and distribute a regular joint communication to all IBEW Local 2067 members addressing nuclear issues,” the letter says.’
Unfortunately, the CBC neglected to mention two important facts. First, that Hawthorne and Collins were members of the UDP, and second, that the negotiations between the two seemed to be taking place during the period when the UDP was conducting its study. This is very disturbing and only helps to confirm the panel’s pro-nuclear bias.
Finally, CIC has disclosed the contract between itself (on behalf of the UDP) and McKinsey & Company
According to the Dec. 1, 2008, agreement, CIC was to pay the consultant “a fee in an amount not to exceed $2,205,000.00” payable as follows:
(a) $551,250.00 on or before January 15, 2009;
(b) $551,250.00 on or before February 15, 2009;
(c) $551,250.00 on or before March 15, 2009;
(d) $551,250.00 on or before April 15, 2009.
Not bad for four months work.
Buried on page eight of the contract is this interesting sentence: “Analysis of each segment of the value chain will be completed by individual teams including industry and government support staff as required and led by the Consultant.”
Exactly what these “teams” are and who is on them is not explained. What’s known for sure is that in its report the partnership acknowledges three of its members, AREVA Canada, Bruce Power and Cameco, for supplying “information and support” during the course of the group’s work. These companies may very well some day profit from the report’s recommendations.