Tuesday, January 29, 2008

An accident waiting to happen

The Star Phoenix reports on Brad Wall's latest foray onto the national political scene. And in case there was any danger that Wall would deal with issues which most of Saskatchewan actually wants to see addressed, his focus is instead on lowering nuclear safety standards to speed up uranium mining:
The Saskatchewan Party government is concerned the length of time it takes for new nuclear power projects to come on-line in Canada could close the "window of opportunity" it sees opening for the province's uranium supply.

Since taking office last November, Premier Brad Wall has been touting Saskatchewan uranium as an important tool to cut the greenhouse-gas emissions, caused by burning fossil fuels, which are driving climate change.

Now he's calling for a "new national approach" on licensing for nuclear reactors, saying that the actual deployment of new nuclear power sources could take decades under Canada's current regulatory regime.
As the article notes, the current timeline to in Canada is pretty much the same as anywhere else in the developed world. Which means that Wall's message ultimately amounts to a declaration that he wants to see Canada start a race to the bottom in terms of nuclear standards - and all in what can best be described as a faint hope that his government will benefit from increased uranium mining as a result.

Now, it remains to be seen whether the federal Cons will take up the call. Tthe current AECL/CNSC controversy could cut both ways: while they might try to exploit the current state of flux surrounding the nuclear industry to further attack the CNSC, it could also be that the Cons will focus on privatizing AECL rather than hacking into nuclear regulation for the moment.

But however the federal government chooses to respond, Saskatchewan residents have to wonder why their government is focusing on reducing the effectiveness of a regulator which oversees as serious an industry as nuclear energy. And if the same philosophy ends up being put in place provincially, then there's all the more reason to worry that safety will get lost in the Sask Party's push for a quick buck.

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