Tuesday, August 04, 2009

An inefficient proposal

There's plenty worth dissecting in the Wall government's latest attempt (warning: PDF) to sell anything they can think of with the word "nuclear" in the title. But here are a couple of take-away points from the isotope reactor proposal.

In terms of cost, the proposal looks to be completely out of whack with every other suggested alternative for isotope production. While the accelerator proposals from UBC and Manitoba have put forward costs in the range of $35-$50 million to get to actual isotope production, the Saskatchewan proposal involves spending roughly that much in a "development" phase before construction even begins - and 10 to 15 times as much to actually get a reactor running (without even considering how to get any isotopes processed).

Likewise, the timelines involved suggest that the Saskatchewan proposal is by far the worst available option out of the ones presented in western Canada: a 2016 start time, compared to 2012 or sooner for the other possibilities. Though that may be good news to the extent that it means the province won't be following Brad Wall's previous musings about slapping a nuclear reactor together in two years.

Of course, the proposal tries to get around its frailties compared to other alternatives by suggesting that it would create only a complementary source of isotopes. But there's little apparent reason why the federal government should be looking to pay far more for a far slower option. And the fact that Wall and his government are willing to burn more money as part of a relatively small provincial share under its proposal than it would cost to put the B.C. and Manitoba proposals into effect combined should serve as a fairly clear signal that the Sask Party's nuclear agenda has nothing at all to do with what's best for the province.

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