Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Nuclear secrecy continues as Crown Investments Corporation refuses to release public consultation briefing notes and Bruce Power correspondence

Openness and transparency continues to take a beating in the Saskatchewan Party government’s drive to bring nuclear power to the province whether anyone likes it or not.

On May 5, two requests under the province’s freedom of information legislation were submitted to the Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan (CIC) for copies of any briefing notes or reports since February 1 regarding the Future of Uranium in Saskatchewan Consultation Process; and, for copies of any formal correspondence between the provincial government and Bruce Power, or its representative Golder Associates, since December 1, 2008, relating to the power company’s interest in building a nuclear reactor in the province.

On June 4, CIC vice president and general counsel, Doug Kosloski, advised that both requests were denied.

With respect to the first application, CIC said it located two records responsive to the request. Access to one record was refused “on the basis that it would disclose a confidence of the Executive Council.”

Access to the second record was refused on the basis that if disclosed “could reasonably be expected to disclose advice, proposals, recommendations, analyses or policy options developed by or for CIC or a member of the Executive Council” and “could reasonably be expected to disclose consultations or deliberations involving officers or employees of a government institution, a member of the Executive Council or the staff of a member of the Executive Council.”

As for correspondence between the province and Bruce Power, CIC said it located one record responsive to the request. Access to the record, however, was denied “on the basis that if disclosed the record would release information that could reasonably be expected to disclose information, including the proposed plans, policies or projects of a government institution, the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to result in the disclosure of a pending policy or budgetary decision of a pending policy decision or budgetary item.”

Under Section 8 of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act where a record contains information to which an applicant is refused access, a government institution shall give access to as much of the record as can reasonably be severed without disclosing the information to which the applicant is refused access. It appears CIC failed to comply with this requirement on both requests.

The Future of Uranium in Saskatchewan Consultation Process began May 26 in Saskatoon and ends June 23 in Regina. The process, led by chair Dan Perrins, has been mired in controversy with many calling it a sham. Withholding information from the public can only exacerbate the problem.

Perrins’s mandate is extremely narrow: lead a public consultation process on the findings and recommendations of the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) in the report, Capturing the full potential of the uranium value chain in Saskatchewan, submitted March 31, 2009.

Perrins is responsible for writing and submitting to the Minister of Enterprise and Innovation a report no later than August 31, 2009, summarizing public input and feedback from stakeholders and citizens gathered through the public consultation process.

The briefing notes for the public consultations are not the only UDP-related records that access is being denied to. CIC is also refusing to release the complete agendas and minutes for any meetings the panel conducted after October 20, 2008; and, it is also denying access to the request for proposals that was submitted by pro-nuclear consultant McKinsey and Company who were hired to provide support services to the UDP.

Then there is Premier Brad Wall’s address to the Enterprise Saskatchewan board of directors at its inaugural meeting held March 31, 2008, at the Legislative Building in Regina. Wall told the board, who are supposedly independent and arm’s length from government, that one of the priorities he wanted it to oversee in the comings months was identifying uranium value-added opportunities. The board dutifully complied recommending that a partnership be established to conduct a full evaluation of the economic potential for value-added expansion of the nuclear industry and environmental considerations for Saskatchewan. On December 23, 2008, Executive Council denied a freedom of information request for a copy of Wall’s address.

Incidentally, Enterprise Saskatchewan’s 2009-10 strategic plan shows that one of the agency’s key actions this year is to, “Advance recommendations of the Uranium Development Partnership report after public consultation to increase value-added processing of Saskatchewan’s uranium resources.” This combined with political meddling and secrecy leaves little reason for the public to trust the Saskatchewan Party government on the nuclear issue.

Just as worrisome is CIC’s refusal to disclose correspondence between the government and Bruce Power.

When Bruce Power released its feasibility study on November 27, 2008, Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart said in a news release that the government would “undertake a thorough evaluation of the conditions identified by Bruce Power that would be necessary for a nuclear power plant to be feasible in Saskatchewan and will provide a response to both Bruce Power and the people of Saskatchewan within six months.”

That was nearly 7 months ago. The government has yet to provide the public with a response, but what about Bruce Power? Has the Wall government let them know? Kosloski’s June 4 letter seems to confirm that correspondence has been exchanged between the two parties during that time.

It’s interesting to note that Bruce Power reportedly attended the EnerCan West 2009 conference and trade show held March 16 & 17 at Evraz Place in Regina.

According to the EnerCan West website the inaugural event focused “on nuclear power as an energy solution for a sustainable future” and was hosted by the Saskatchewan Environmental and Industry Managers Association (SEIMA) and the Manitoba Environmental Industries Association (MEIA). Sponsoring the event was:

– Cameco Corporation
– Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan
– Enterprise Saskatchewan
– Clifton Associates Ltd.
– Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
– Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
– SaskPower
– Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources

In the legislature on April 7 the government revealed that Enterprise Saskatchewan paid $8,800 as a sponsor for the event while SaskPower paid $5,000 and CIC $20,000.

The conference program shows Enterprise Minister Lyle Stewart and CIC Minister Ken Cheveldayoff were scheduled to attend. Saskatchewan-related topics at the two-day event included:

– Environmental Regulatory Requirements for the Nuclear Industry in Saskatchewan

– Environmental Management of Nuclear Activities: The Environmental Impact Statement for the Nuclear Build at Bruce Power

– Saskatchewan’s Deep Geothermal Energy Potential

– Nuclear Development Potential in Saskatchewan

– Moving Beyond the Mine: Business Opportunities to Transform Saskatchewan into the Nuclear Energy HUB of Western Canada

At least 60 organizations were expected to be there. The nuclear contingent included:

– AREVA Resources Canada
– Bruce Power
– Cameco
– Crown Investments Corporation
– Enterprise Saskatchewan
– Golder Associates
– Idaho National Laboratories
– SaskPower

The conference conveniently coincided with information sessions that were being conducted by Golder Associates on behalf of Bruce Power in Prince Albert (March 18), Lloydminster (March 19) and North Battlefored (March 20) as part of the power company’s Saskatchewan 2020 campaign.

With so many nuclear industry heavyweights in one place at the same time it would be hard to believe that Bruce Power and provincial government officials didn’t cross paths at least once. That Enterprise Saskatchewan and CIC were sponsors of the event should not go unnoticed since it’s these two ministries that keep telling the public that no decision has been made on nuclear power.

It’s also tough to ignore the reasons that CIC gave for withholding the correspondence with Bruce Power. They’re saying that releasing the document could “result in the disclosure of a pending policy or budgetary decision of a pending policy decision or budgetary item.” If no decision has been made how can the government already have policy or budgetary items ready to go?

Bruce Power doesn’t seem to be endearing itself to rural residents in Saskatchewan either. In a letter to editor published on June 6 in the Prince Albert Daily Herald, Paradise Hill resident Marilyn Brown rattled off a list of meetings where the company failed to attend or skipped at the last minute.

Brown said Bruce Power was invited to participate at an open forum in Paradise Hill but didn’t show up. “Instead, on March 18, Bruce Power conducted its own public information session in Lloydminster. At this event I discovered their presentation was prepared in such a way as to provide only selective details about their proposal,” she said.

Brown noted the power company failed “to provide a spokesperson” at a March 23 information session in Hillmond.

“On April 9 the RM of Wilton ratepayer’s annual meeting was to host a Bruce Power presentation as part of their agenda. This meeting was rescheduled into early June, however Bruce Power has declined participation,” Brown said.

“The following ratepayer meeting was the RM of Britannia, occurring on April 15, at Hillmond. Initially Bruce Power indicated a willingness to participate in an information session set aside during the meeting. They declined the invitation just two days prior to the event.”

At St. Walburg, during the RM of Frenchman Butte’s ratepayer meeting, Bruce Power was “invited to make a prepared presentation devoid of questioning from the floor. At the very last moment, the company failed to participate.

“Could it be – Bruce Power will establish a nuclear power plant regardless of increasing public rejection,” Brown wondered. [Bruce Power motives seem unclear (P.A. Daily Herald, June 6, 2009)]

The answer to that could be in a pair of stories that were published in The StarPhoenix a day earlier.

In Reactor panned at Regina meeting (StarPhoenix, June 5, 2009) it was reported on page A4 that more than 400 people showed up at the June 4 public consultation meeting chaired by Dan Perrins at the Western Christian College in Regina. According to the story many in the crowd were “firmly opposed to the idea of building a reactor.”

On page A8 the newspaper reported that Bruce Power was moving full steam ahead with its site selection process for a potential nuclear reactor in Saskatchewan.

In the article Bruce Power proceeding with reactor site selection (StarPhoenix, June 5, 2009) company spokesperson, Steve Cannon, said the selection will be made before the end of the year.

Cannon seemed to spin the story saying the company does not want to “get ahead” of the public consultations.

“We’ll be ready to select a site in the coming months. We’re not going to put a firm timeline on anything because we want to do it properly,” he said.

If this is Cannon’s idea of doing things “properly” then it says a lot about the company’s attitude. More than two months remain before Perrins has to submit his public consultations report to the government, and yet Bruce Power is already saying it’ll have a site chosen by the end of the year – regardless, it seems, of what the public thinks.


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