Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sask Party Plans to Run a Red Light

Bill Boyd desperately wants to pretend that Dan Perrins' report on public opinions about uranium development in Saskatchewan was anything but a clear repudiation of the Wall government's determination to build a nuke-dependent Saskatchewan:
"When I look at this report, it's neither a green light nor a red light for future uranium development," said Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd in a news release.

"It's more like a yellow light — take any next steps with caution. Saskatchewan people are saying — take your time, get it right, consider all the options. I think that's wise counsel."
So what kind of language does Boyd consider to be an instruction to keep forcing nuclear development on the province? Let's take a look at some highlights from the report...
Theme 1: Opposition to Nuclear Power Generation
Overall, while there is some support for nuclear power generation, the overwhelming response to this public consultation was that nuclear power generation should not be a choice for Saskatchewan, whether it is intended to serve the needs of Saskatchewan people only, or for a combination of Saskatchewan people and other provinces or states.
Now, it may be worth following up to determine whether Boyd was sheltered from the actual outcome of the consultations in order to be able to make that kind of statement with a straight face. But it's hard to see how a document that explicitly says the overwhelming response wants to rule out nuclear development can be taken as evidence that it should be pursued by anybody who isn't either utterly clueless, or determinedly dishonest.

What about the other pieces of the Wall government's nuclear agenda? The other live issue is Wall's proposal to slap up a reactor to produce nuclear isotopes - but that too was rejected by a wide margin as citizens pointed out that isotopes can be generated through other means:
Most people were opposed to uranium research, development, and training. They pointed to opportunities in alternative energies, to the desire to avoid non-green technologies including uranium, and to the costs of doing research (including opportunity costs) in this field.

People were interested in the topic of medical isotopes and expressed a need for more information on isotope production and use. Responses were divided on this issue. In fact, many people who expressed support for the production of medical isotopes stipulated it should occur without the use of nuclear fission.
In fact, exactly twice as many respondents expressed support for producing isotopes by means other than fission than for producing isotopes generally (a margin of 54-27) - reflecting the greater number of opponents than supporters on the "research/isotope" section in general.

Perhaps most interesting, though, is Perrins' chart of the common themes within submissions received (page 32 of the report). Of the 2,263 submissions, well over 60% (1401 in total) set out opposition to nuclear power [see update below], with the next most common themes being concern about health, safety and the environment; opposition to nuclear waste storage; concern about the costs of uranium development; support for renewal energy sources; concern about the UDP report itself; and opposition to mining and exploration.

That was the last theme listed with the total number of mentions at 519. But Perrins' text includes nine more themes presumably based on the same type of ranking process, and none of those were actually supportive of nuclear development either.

That's particularly noteworthy in light of the best efforts of the business community to hijack the process before throwing a tantrum over the fact that people were actually being heard. Indeed, I'm surprised that there wasn't enough of an astroturfing effort to at least push some nuclear propaganda into the top 16 messages taken from the consultation process.

But in the final result, it's hard to imagine the consultation process producing a more clear signal to the Sask Party that they need to stop trying to foist the nuclear industry on Saskatchewan. And the fact that they're so blatantly ignoring what Saskatchewan's citizens have had to say should speak volumes as to how likely they are to "get it right" given any opening to pursue their nuclear agenda.

Update/correction: On further review, I note that the numbers listed within each theme in Perrins' summary don't necessarily fit the heading: for example, the 1,401 listed under "opposition to nuclear power" actually include submissions in favour of nuclear power. But the strength of opposition to nuclear power is even more striking when that breakdown (84%-14% within the 1,401) is taken into consideration: an absolute majority of all submissions made stated their opposition to nuclear power, while a paltry 8% offered support for it.

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