Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Uranium Development Partnership: Enterprise Saskatchewan behind push for new group; board given presentation on potential nuclear opportunities

In another one of those news releases that seem to pop up out of nowhere the Saskatchewan Party government on Oct. 20, 2008, announced the creation of something called the Uranium Development Partnership.

Making the announcement was Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart and Crown Corporations Minister Ken Cheveldayoff.

According to the news release the 12 member panel will “advise the Government of Saskatchewan on further development of Saskatchewan’s vast uranium resources.”

“Led by Dr. Richard Florizone, a nuclear physicist and Vice President of Finance at the University of Saskatchewan, the mandate of the Uranium Development Partnership is to identify, evaluate and make recommendations on Saskatchewan-based, value added opportunities in the uranium industry.

“The partnership includes representatives from the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan, urban and rural municipalities, business, labour, First Nations, the environmental community and Canada’s nuclear industry.

“The partnership will also identify challenges to development; investment requirements and timelines; legislative and/or regulatory conditions required to move forward. The partnership will also identify research and development opportunities; labour force requirements; and education and training capacity.”

“The partnership will provide a final report to the government by March 31, 2009. The report will include specific recommendations on value added opportunities best suited to the development of the uranium industry,” the government release states.

The Canadian Press’s John Cotter reported that “The partnership’s work will not include getting input from the public about uranium or nuclear power. The government pledged it will consult with the public after the final report is released.” [Saskatchewan names Bruce Power president to nuclear industry advisory panel (The Canadian Press, Oct. 20, 2008)]

The Enterprise and Innovation website notes that “Saskatchewan is the world’s largest uranium producer and is recognized as a long-term, stable source of uranium” and that the province “is interested in attracting value-added activities in the nuclear fuel cycle including refining, conversion, enrichment, fuel manufacturing, electricity generation and waste management.”

Other members named to the partnership include: Duncan Hawthorne, president of Bruce Power Inc., Armand Laferrere, president of Areva Canada, a France-based international nuclear power corporation, Jerry Grandey, president and CEO of Cameco and Alex Pourbaix, president of energy at TransCanada Corp.

Bruce Power, which is currently conducting a feasibility study into building a nuclear power plant in Saskatchewan, is owned by Cameco Corporation, TransCanada Corporation, BPC Generation Infrastructure Trust, a trust established by the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, the Power Workers’ Union and The Society of Energy Professionals.

If the announcement sounds strangely familiar it might be because on Sept. 17, 2008, the government issued a news release saying that it had created a Regulatory Modernization Council (RMC), a scheme that will give business lobby groups like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the North Saskatoon Business Association “direct input in the province’s regulatory reform process and business services improvements.” The RMC “will recommend regulatory reform and business services priorities and forward them to the Enterprise Saskatchewan (ES) Board. It will also assist ES in monitoring the progress toward meeting regulatory and service enhancement goals.”

What the government’s Oct. 20 news release doesn’t say is that, like the RMC, the Uranium Development Partnership is a creature of Enterprise Saskatchewan.

Quietly posted to the Enterprise and Innovation website recently was the Enterprise Saskatchewan Progress Report, Sept. 30, 2008.

The 20-page report indicates that the board was given a presentation on potential value-added nuclear opportunities for further assessment:

– nuclear power;
– uranium conversion;
– enrichment;
– medical isotopes; and
– other research.

The Board recommended that a full evaluation of the economic potential for value-added expansion of the nuclear industry and environmental considerations for Saskatchewan be conducted, and that:

– the evaluation should be carried out by a partnership including representatives from all phases of the nuclear fuel cycle, as well as Saskatchewan business, labour, universities, First Nations, and local governments;

– the work of the partnership be supported with funding from industry and government; and

– the partnership be mandated to report back to Cabinet with its evaluation and recommendations for next steps by January 31, 2009.

The report does not say who gave the presentation to the board or when it occurred. Nor does it say who initiated the discussion about forming a partnership. Whether the nuclear industry was involved in any way is unknown. Like the RMC, which apparently first met on Sept. 17, 2008, the Enterprise Saskatchewan board meetings are closed to the public.

The board met for the first time on March 31, 2008 with subsequent meetings on April 24, May 22, June 19, September 23, and by conference call on July 29, 2008. Board committees have also met.

In the article Environment group questions uranium panel objectivity (StarPhoenix, Oct. 21, 2008) Minister Cheveldayoff described the partnership “as at arm’s-length from the government.” Group members “were chosen through recommendations with the exception of two, Patrick Moore and Neil Collins, which the province recruited to the team.”

Just who recommended these specific individuals is a mystery. The news release and Enterprise Saskatchewan progress report does not say.

The backgrounder states that Collins is a business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2067. Moore is the chair and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. in Vancouver, B.C. He is also a co-founder of Greenpeace, and former president of Greenpeace Canada and former director of Greenpeace International.

It’s interesting to note there are two different dates. The Oct. 20 news release says that the partnership will provide a final report to the government by Mar. 31, 2009, but the Enterprise Saskatchewan progress report suggests that Cabinet will receive the evaluations and recommendations by Jan. 31, 2009.

The progress report notes that polygeneration proponents, including TransCanada, gave a presentation to the board on its proposed alternative energy project located at Belle Plaine. Has Bruce Power and/or Cameco given a presentation to the board? If not, are they expected to?

As for being arms-length from government this must be taken with a grain of salt. During the oil royalty fiasco earlier this year, Premier Brad Wall told an audience of oil and gas executives at the Calgary Petroleum Club on Jan. 21, 2008, that the province would not be increasing royalties.

“We want to review both the royalty and the regulatory structures we have in place, not just by the way in oil and gas, but in regard to potash and other resources that we’re looking at,” Wall said.

“We want Enterprise Saskatchewan’s sector team, which will involve industry by the way, to do this review for the purposes of trying to be more competitive…That will be the direction that we give to Enterprise Saskatchewan.”

Wall originally envisioned Enterprise Saskatchewan as being arms-length from government, but in his Calgary speech he demonstrated that his government is not above political meddling. In fact, it’s already begun.

According to the Enterprise Saskatchewan progress report Premier Wall addressed the board at its first meeting (Mar. 31, 2008) and “stressed the importance of its work to the province’s growth agenda.” Wall “asked the ES Board to oversee three priorities during the coming months.” One of those priorities just happened to be identifying uranium value-added opportunities.

Bruce Power’s future involvement in Saskatchewan’s uranium exploitation plans seems to be somewhat of a foregone conclusion.

On June 17, 2008, with Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart and Crown Corporations Minister Ken Cheveldayoff looking on, the Ontario-based nuclear power company announced it was undertaking a feasibility study for building a reactor in the province.

The Saskatchewan 2020 study would look at potential locations, the economic impact and how to integrate nuclear power into Saskatchewan’s other energy sources.

Earlier in 2008, the president of the Calgary-based pipeline company TransCanada, one of the owners of Bruce Power, said Saskatchewan might be a better bet than Alberta as the site of Western Canada’s first reactor.

The study is expected to wrap up by the end of the year. [Bruce Power to study building nuclear reactor in Saskatchewan (CBC News, June 17, 2008)]

In July 2008, Minister Stewart toured the Bruce Power reactor facilities as part of three-days of meetings with the nuclear industry in Ontario.

Stewart said the trip would help the Saskatchewan Party government make a decision if Bruce Power decides it wants to proceed when it completes the study by the end of the year. [Stewart to tour Bruce reactor (Leader-Post, July 29, 2008)]

And now with the announcement that Bruce Power president Duncan Hawthorne has joined the new Uranium Development Partnership, along with owners Cameco and TransCanada, it would seem odd that they’d invest this kind of time and energy in such a dog and pony show if they didn’t think there would be some kind of success at the end of it. This appears to be part and parcel of the softening up – the manufacturing of consent – of the province’s acceptance of a nuclear future. This could also help explain why the public won’t be part of the consultation process until after the studies have been completed.


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