Friday, June 12, 2009

Saskatchewan Chamber’s “expert and reputable sources” in “fact-based” information campaign have vested interests in expanding the nuclear industry

‘Nuclear power is safe, clean, reliable, and affordable.’ As Big Lies go this one is right up there with NAFTA has been good for Canada and interprovincial trade barriers are so prevalent that they’re seriously damaging the country’s economy. Repeat a lie often enough and people will start believing it. This seems to be what the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce is hoping for in the debate over nuclear power that is polarizing the province.

On May 20 the Chamber launched what it called a “fact-based campaign to provide information to the thousands of members of the multiple Chambers of Commerce operating throughout” the province. The initiative included the release of a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document that the lobby group claims “draws upon expert and reputable sources to answer the most common questions in relation to nuclear development. Agencies such as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission have been used to ensure the answers are exact and complete.”

A Chamber news release said the campaign would “coincide with the public consultations held on the recommendations of the Uranium Development Report commissioned by the Province of Saskatchewan. This FAQ was designed to inform people in advance of those sessions and assist the sharing of fact based material.”

The public consultations began May 26 in Saskatoon and end in Regina June 23.

“The opportunity for a large scale expansion of our uranium sector into a new area is vitally important and will have a significant impact on the future of our province. We should all be informed of the facts required to make this decision,” said Chamber CEO Steve McLellan. “Our intent is to make all the necessary information readily available to those who are looking to become informed.”

The key word here is ‘fact,’ which is used 5 times in the news release. The Chamber seems to think that only they have the real facts on nuclear energy. Apparently, most everyone else is wrong.

In the article Nuclear plants get support (Leader-Post, May 21, 2009) McLellan noted that “anti-nuclear sources” are referenced as well.

“In terms of being balanced, we’ve listed in (the paper) the David Suzuki (Foundation) and Greenpeace (Canada) websites. So if people want other information or have more questions that we haven’t answered, we’re giving them other sources.”

Other elements of the chamber’s campaign will be unveiled over the next few weeks and will utilize the network of local chambers across the province, the article said.

“We’ve got communications out to our chamber network across the province and we want them to send it down to their members. The purpose of this is to encourage people to get the information and then get out to the public hearings that are focused on the UDP (Uranium Development Partnership) report,” McLellan said.

In other words, the Chamber wants its members to go to the public consultation meetings armed with its version of the facts and spread the propaganda around accordingly.

Now here are a couple of things that McLellan and the Leader-Post didn’t tell people.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is, in theory, an independent agency, but is susceptible to serious political meddling.

The CNSC was established in 2000 under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and reports to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources. CNSC was created to replace the former Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB), which was founded in 1946.

Members of the commission are appointed by order-in-council. One permanent member of the commission is designated as the CNSC’s president and CEO.

On January 15, 2008, the Harper government fired CNSC president Linda Keen, a Liberal appointee, for doing her job.

In November 2007, a nuclear reactor at Chalk River, Ont., operated by a federal Crown corporation, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), was shut-down indefinitely when CNSC inspectors discovered it had been operating for months without fulfilling certain safety conditions attached to its license. This resulted in a domestic shortage of medical isotopes for cancer and cardiac diagnosis and other treatment.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper was outraged blaming the problem on the “Liberal appointed” safety commission. On December 11, 2007, Parliament passed emergency legislation to override the nuclear watchdog ordering the reactor back on line. Well, so much for the CNSC being arm’s length from government.

The two “anti-nuclear sources” that McLellan proudly boasts of being included in his organization’s FAQ are buried on page 25 of the 27 page document. All it provides are links to the organizations homepages and not to any specific report. The Chamber leaves it up to the reader to do the research. Nowhere else in the document are the two group’s mentioned. And McLellan has the nerve to call this “balanced”?

The Chamber incredibly ignores the Pembina Institute, a well-respected national not-for-profit organization dedicated to developing innovative sustainable energy solutions. In May 2007, the institute published three documents studying the life cycle of nuclear. These include: Clearing the Air About Nuclear Power, a summary report of the larger Nuclear Power in Canada: An Examination of Risks, Impacts and Sustainability released in December 2006; and the related fact sheets Clearing the Air: Nuclear Power and Climate Change, and, Clearing the Air: Uranium Mining: Nuclear Power’s Dirty Secret. Together, these reports manage to blow apart many of the Saskatchewan Chamber’s arguments for supporting nuclear power.

The Chamber’s credibility implodes completely when it becomes apparent that the majority of the “expert and reputable sources” its information is drawn from have vested interests in expanding the nuclear industry. The suspects include: World Nuclear Association, Canadian Nuclear Association, Nuclear Power Expert Panel, Nuclear Waste Management Organization, Uranium Development Partnership, Bruce Power, and Cameco Corporation.

The World Nuclear Association (WNA) is a London-based lobby group that, according to its website, “seeks to promote the peaceful worldwide use of nuclear power as a sustainable energy resource for the coming centuries.” Members include familiar names like AREVA, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., Bruce Power, and Cameco Corporation.

Cameco’s senior vice-president of marketing and business development, George Assie, serves on the WNA’s board of management. Cameco president and CEO, Gerald Grandey, serves on the organization’s council of advisors. He was also chairman of the WNA from 2002-2004.

The Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) is an Ottawa-based lobby group whose mission is “to promote domestic and international acceptance of Canadian nuclear technologies and to create a positive public, political and regulatory environment for advancing the nuclear industry in Canada and in global markets.”

CNA members include AREVA Canada, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., Bruce Power, Cameco Corporation, Denison Mines, Saskatchewan Mining Association, University of Saskatchewan, and World Nuclear Association.

CNA board members include Tim Gitzel, senior vice president & COO of Cameco, Duncan Hawthorne, president & CEO of Bruce Power, Armad Laferrere, president of AREVA Canada, and Hugh MacDiarmid, president & CEO of Atomic Energy of Canada.

Gitzel, Hawthorne and MacDiarmid serve on the organization’s executive committee.

The Nuclear Power Expert Panel was announced by the Government of Alberta on April 23, 2008. The panel was mandated “to provide a comprehensive examination of: environmental, health and safety issues; waste management; comparing nuclear energy with other electricity generation technologies; current and future nuclear power generation being used in Canada and around the world; and Alberta’s future electricity needs.” It was also asked to “examine social issues and concerns related to nuclear energy.”

The panel’s report was released on March 26, 2009, and formed the basis for Albertans “to share their views on the issues covered in the report and the option of nuclear power generation in Alberta.”

The information contained in the report “is based upon facts and data supplied by panel members and by the Alberta Research Council and the [pro-nuclear] Idaho National Laboratory, who were commissioned by the panel to compile background information.” The report does not offer any recommendations.

The panel members were:

– Dr. Harvie Andre (Panel Chair), former federal Tory MP for Calgary Centre. Andre is the president and CEO of Wenzel Downhole Tools Ltd. which manufactures and distributes equipment used in oil & gas and utility drilling. He is also the president of Cresvard Corporation a strategic planning and management consulting firm. Andre has deep roots in the energy industry having served on the boards of several private corporations including Flagship Energy Inc. (now Insignia Energy Ltd.), BowEnergy Resources Ltd., Avery Resources Inc. (now Bengal Energy Ltd.), Arctigas Resources Corp., King Energy Inc., Alternative Fuel Systems Inc., and Suprex Energy Corporation.

– Dr. Joseph Doucet, Enbridge Professor of Energy Policy, University of Alberta, School of Business. Doucet is president of the Canadian affiliate of the International Association for Energy Economics.

– Dr. Harrie Vredenburg, Suncor Energy Chair in Competitive Strategy and Sustainable Development, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary. Vredenburg has worked as a consultant for TransCanada PipeLines, the majority owner of Bruce Power, and is the founding director of the TransCanada International Institute for Resource Industries and Sustainability Studies (IRIS) at the Haskayne School of Business. The school is named for Richard F. Haskayne, the immediate past chairman of the board of TransCanada Corporation. Vredenburg is also a director of The Van Horne Institute who in February 2009 sponsored Hugh MacDiarmid, president & CEO, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to address the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

– Dr. John Luxat, Nuclear Safety Analysis, Department of Engineering Physics, McMaster University. Luxat was president of the Canadian Nuclear Society (CNS) in 2005-06. According to the organization’s website the CNS was established in 1979 as “the technical society of the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA).” The CNS is “legally a division of the CNA.” Before joining McMaster he was vice president of technical methods at Nuclear Safety Solutions Ltd. (NSS) in Toronto. The NSS is the largest private sector nuclear consultancy in Canada. It is a subsidiary of AMEC, one of the world’s largest project management and services companies. AMEC NCL, the direct parent company of NSS, is the project manager for the Bruce Unit 1&2 Restart Project, the largest nuclear refurbishment project in the world. Luxat was also the manager of nuclear safety technology at Ontario Power Generation. He is a current board member of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) was established in 2002 under the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA) to investigate approaches for managing Canada’s used nuclear fuel. The NWMO board is dominated by nuclear industry representatives, which include Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Ontario Power Generation and NB Power. The nuclear industry supports “deep geological disposal” of radioactive waste, therefore, the organization’s ability to be objective is suspect. In its 2008 annual report the NWMO notes that it met with the Government of Saskatchewan, University of Saskatchewan, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, and Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association. In January 2009, the NWMO published Implementing Adaptive Phased Management 2009 to 2013 in which Saskatchewan was named as one of four provinces where nuclear waste could be stored over the long-term.

The Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) was established on October 20, 2008. Its narrow mandate was “to identify, evaluate and make recommendations on Saskatchewan-based, value added opportunities in the uranium industry.” The Saskatchewan Party government stacked the 12 person panel with at least 10 pro-nuclear representatives including AREVA Canada, Bruce Power, Cameco Corporation, TransCanada PipeLines, and the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce. The UDP met behind closed-doors and were assisted by pro-nuclear consultant McKinsey and Company. The final report, Capturing the Full Potential of the Uranium Value Chain in Saskatchewan, was released on April 3, 2009, and contains 20 recommendations on further development of Saskatchewan’s uranium resources focused on further exploration and mining, power generation and research and development. The report formed the basis for public consultations which began May 26 in Saskatoon. A total of 10 organizations that were represented on the UDP were outrageously invited to participate. The list included AREVA, Bruce Power, Cameco, and, oh yes, the Saskatchewan Chamber.

To top things off the Chamber’s website includes a form that can be filled out and sent directly to Dan Perrins, the chair of the Future of Uranium in Saskatchewan Public Consultation Process. “Send your letter of support,” it urges.

The Chamber even goes so far as to supply a ‘sample letter’ that can be cut and pasted into the body of the form:

Dear Mr. Perrins:

I have looked at the facts and I support the development of the uranium industry in Saskatchewan, including a nuclear power plant.

Nuclear power is safe, clean, and efficient and will benefit our province. Add my name to the list of supporters of this efficient source of power.


Jane Smith

The Saskatchewan Chamber’s strategy is obvious – to shamelessly flood Perrins with as many pro-nuclear letters as possible.


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