Saturday, June 20, 2009

On rushed decisions

Most of the discussion about nuclear building in Saskatchewan has understandably focused on the issue of power generation. But it looks like Brad Wall plans to claim that the relative silence on other aspects of nuclear development is an excuse to push forward on them:
Mr. Wall said he wants to launch a full-speed effort to build a research reactor within two to three years, likely at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

Such a project would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, he said. Saskatchewan would pick up part of that tab, Mr. Wall said, but he also hopes the reactor can be built through a partnership of the federal government, the province and the private sector.
Mr. Wall is looking to act quickly on a research reactor: A final decision will come as soon as August, after consultation with the public.
Needless to say, a timeline where Wall could make a "final decision" pushing ahead with a research/isotope reactor might come as a surprise to anybody. And that's not just because of Dan Perrins' report due date on August 31 (i.e. too late for Wall to actually review Perrins' conclusions in depth before making any decision), nor the pro-nuclear camp's emphasis on the possibility of additional assessments later on to try to avoid criticism today.

Instead, the most important point to keep in mind is that the UDP report itself only identifies a research reactor as a possibility to "selectively invest" (rather than receiving the "actively pursue" designation given to nuclear power), with no mention of any intention to increase the province's involvement until the latter part of the 2009-2014 period.

As a result, the UDP consultations themselves can't be said to have asked the province what it might think about rushing into building a research reactor along Wall's planned timeline. And it hardly seems to be an accident that despite all the turmoil that has surrounded Chalk River since before the UDP was ever put together (even if the actual report was tailored to avoid mentioning it), Wall is just now publicly declaring his determination to push forward now that the public forums are over.

Of course, the most recent set of isotope reactors - built on a far less tight timeline - turned into a money pit which may or may not be salvageable to produce the intended isotopes. And the previous one has been shut down due to a radiation leak. So one would think Saskatchewan should look long and hard at whether it wants to race into the breach.

But apparently Wall is eager to make a final decision about an isotope reactor based on a false claim to have consulted Saskatchewan already - which can only increase the urgency in developing a strong enough wave of public sentiment to force him to reverse course.

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