LUMSDEN, Sask. — A new report has found that most Saskatchewan residents oppose building a nuclear power plant in the province, but that doesn’t mean the idea has hit a dead end, according to the government.
The 166-page report released Tuesday gathered reaction from public consultations held on the future of uranium development in Saskatchewan. There were more than 1,400 responses specifically on the nuclear power issue and 84 per cent were opposed the idea.
Energy Minister Bill Boyd suggested that’s not a sign to stop, but says his “foot is off the accelerator.”
“When I look at this report, it’s neither a green light nor a red light for the future uranium development. It’s more like a yellow light — take any next steps with great caution,” said Boyd.
“There’s no question there’s strong opposition, I’ve never said that there wasn’t. Of the people that attended the meetings, there was a very strong concern about the future in this area.”
Saskatchewan is the world’s largest producer of uranium, the key component in nuclear power generation, but mining the raw material is as far as the province has gone in the nuclear cycle.
Last year, the government appointed a 12-member panel, known as the Uranium Development Partnership, to study the nuclear cycle from mining through to disposal. That report released in April recommended that Saskatchewan open the door to nuclear power and also said storage of nuclear waste would be a good economic option for the province, but it must have community support.
Dan Perrins was appointed to gather the reaction from industry, environmental groups and the public.
“The majority of people participating in the public consultation process oppose the province moving towards nuclear power generation because of health and safety concerns, concerns about environmental impacts, and the costs associated with nuclear power,” Perrins wrote in his report.
“Many specify that they would not want a nuclear power plant in their area of the province.”
Most people also took issue with the Uranium Development Partnership report itself, saying “they did not trust the report — or the partnership — at all,” wrote Perrins.
The partnership panel included the presidents of the Areva, Cameco (TSX:CCO) and Bruce Power — all big players in the nuclear industry.
Last November, Bruce Power released its own feasibility study identifying a region from Prince Albert west to Lloydminster as a good spot to build a nuclear power plant. The study suggested the plant could be in operation by 2018 and contribute 1,000 megawatts of electricity to the province by 2020.
Bruce Power spokesman Steve Cannon said Tuesday that the company had just received the report with the findings from the public consultations and needed more time to review the information before commenting.
Boyd says the province will also need a few weeks to review the report and its recommendations.
Premier Brad Wall has said no one should be surprised that his Saskatchewan Party government is interested in uranium value-added opportunities, noting it was part of the party’s campaign platform in the 2007 provincial election. Wall has said a decision about whether the province is interested in having a nuclear power plant would be made by the end of the year.