Saturday, April 04, 2009

Uranium Development Partnership backs nuclear reactor and waste storage; Minister Stewart back peddles; public consultation to include Florizone video

UDP news conference, Apr. 3, 2009, in Saskatoon

UDP Chair Richard Florizone (right) presenting 11-page executive
to Ministers Ken Cheveldayoff and Lyle Stewart

It cost taxpayers $2.5 million to find out what it already knew five months ago – that the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) supports building a nuclear reactor in Saskatchewan.

The pro-nuclear panel officially delivered its final report, Capturing the Full Potential of the Uranium Value Chain in Saskatchewan, which contains 20 recommendations on further development of Saskatchewan’s uranium resources focused on further exploration and mining, power generation and research and development, at an anticlimactic press conference held on Apr. 3 at the Sheraton Cavalier in Saskatoon.

Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart and Crown Corporations Minister Ken Cheveldayoff announced the establishment of the UDP on Oct 20, 2008. Its mandate was to identify, evaluate and make recommendations to the government on Saskatchewan-based, value added opportunities in the uranium industry.

In addition to a nuclear plant, the UDP also supports the storage of nuclear waste in Saskatchewan and the provincial government (i.e. taxpayers) footing part of the bill for infrastructure upgrades:

– Recommendation #12: Saskatchewan should… Include nuclear as part of the Province’s long-range energy mix given its cost-competitiveness as a baseload power alternative and the economic value it would generate within the Province.

– Recommendation #13: Saskatchewan should… Begin this long-range planning process by… Defining the role that the Provincial Government would play and developing a strategy to optimize the balance between expected power pricing and Saskatchewan ratepayers’ exposure to cost overruns.

– Recommendation #16: Saskatchewan should… Support any willing host community that comes forward through [the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s consultation and siting process] and, as appropriate, support the development of the deep geological repository in the context of a broader nuclear development strategy.

UDP chair Dr. Richard Florizine, a nuclear physicist and vice president of finance at the University of Saskatchewan, provided the audience with a 30-40 minute PowerPoint presentation of the report’s key findings and recommendations.

Florizone, along with Ministers Stewart and Cheveldayoff, tried to portray the 12 member UDP as a fine, upstanding broad representation of Saskatchewan stakeholders, when in fact at least 10 of the members, or the organizations they represent, have in the past voiced support for nuclear power. Some, like Bruce Power, Cameco and TransCanada, are directly related to current efforts to try and bring nuclear power to the province. After listening to Florizone’s presentation it became abundantly clear that he is stridently pro-nuclear as well. The government stacked the deck so far in its favour that any other outcome was next to impossible.

By the time the media got around to asking questions it wasn’t long before Enterprise Minister Lyle Stewart slipped up and contradicted himself. On the very first question Stewart was asked if there were any recommendations in the report that the government would not consider. Stewart said no, everything would be considered. The inevitable follow-up was, 'does that then mean the government supports storing nuclear waste in the province?' Stewart quickly back-peddled saying no that was something the government wasn’t interested in pursuing at this time. He said the public clearly does not support it. It was too late, though, the damage was already done.

At the press conference Stewart also revealed details of the public consultation process that will take place. If people thought five months was too quick for the UDP to conduct its work then consider the time allotted for public forums will be a mere 18 days.

According to the government’s news release Stewart said the public consultation process will start immediately and will feature several elements including:

– a major stakeholder conference;

– a series of nine community consultation meetings to be held between May 19 and June 5 in Prince Albert, Buffalo Narrows, The Battlefords, Lloydminster, Yorkton, Estevan, Swift Current, Regina and Saskatoon;

– an opportunity for individual stakeholder organizations to provide oral and written submissions over two days with an additional day set aside for presentations from First Nations and Métis groups;

– the launch of a website containing the full report, presentation materials, online input opportunities, and ultimately, the results of the public input:;

– an opportunity for those who do not want to attend a meeting or do not have internet access to provide written submissions: “The Future of Uranium in SaskatchewanP.O. Box 7, Regina, SK, S4P 2Z5; and

– a toll free number (1-877-791-4667) for individuals to leave their name and address to receive a print copy of the Executive Summary.

One thing Stewart said at the press conference that’s not in the news release is that all public consultation sessions will include a videotaped presentation by UDP chair Richard Florizone of the panel’s findings and recommendations.

To say that Florizone’s presentation at the Apr. 3 press conference was nuclear friendly is an understatement. Barely a negative word was spoken. So it appears the last thing participants at the public consultation meetings will hear before they begin are Florizone’s soothing, reassuring words that nuclear power is safe, clean, reliable and is something which Saskatchewan can and should pursue. There was no mention by Stewart that the public will get to hear any presentations offering alternative viewpoints or strategies. It’s all about the UDP and its recommendations and the manufacturing of consent. When people say that the public consultation process is a sham they’re absolutely right.

“I can assure you that no decisions have been made,” Stewart said in the news release. “The input received will be considered by the provincial government as part of the decision making process. As such, I encourage all citizens to get informed and get involved.”

What Stewart neglects to mention is that the 2009-10 action plan for Enterprise Saskatchewan, released on Mar. 18 in conjunction with the provincial budget, states the agency will this year “advance recommendations of the Uranium Development Partnership report after public consultation to increase value-added processing of Saskatchewan’s uranium resources.” What more needs to be said?

The UDP final report offers no information on when, where or how many times the group met, where it traveled or who it met with.

In mid-February an access to information request was submitted to Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan (CIC) for copies of the agenda packages and minutes to any UDP meetings that were held from Dec. 31, 2008 to Feb. 19, 2009. The request for access to those records was denied on Mar. 23.

The letter from CIC vice president and general consul, Doug Kosloski, said “Please note however that the information contained in the records is expected to be published within the next 90 days with the release of the final report of the Uranium Development Partnership, on or about March 31, 2009.”

The UDP report released on Apr. 3, however, contains no specific information whatsoever about the group’s meetings, agendas or minutes. CIC failed to live up to its promise.

Lastly, it’s interesting to note that the report acknowledges three UDP members – AREVA Canada, Bruce Power and Cameco – for providing “information and support” during the group’s time together. It’s not unreasonable to think that one day some or all of these private companies could end up profiting from the recommendations they helped develop. How wrong is that?


At 6:42 PM, Blogger Larry Hubich said...

Manufacture of consent is an understatement. Can anyone pronounce: r-a-i-l-r-o-a-d


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