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Old Posted Jun 16, 2009, 1:24 AM
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Uranium forums 'sidetracked'
By Jeremy Warren, The Star Phoenix June 15, 2009 Comments (7)

Two major voices in the nuclear energy debate are questioning the legitimacy and impact of the Future of Uranium in Saskatchewan forums.

The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce and Clean Green Saskatchewan -- both engaged in public information campaigns -- will attend tonight's public forum in Saskatoon at the Travelodge.

Both organizations, despite sitting on opposite sides of the nuclear energy debate, believe the meetings are sideshows to larger issues. In past meetings, opponents of nuclear development have shouted down pro-development speakers and have limited the discussion of opposing viewpoints, said Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce CEO Steve McLellan.

"We'd like to see more of an informed debate," he said.

"The public consultations have not seen that. The anti-nuke lobby has sidetracked the discussion."

To date, media covering the meetings across the province have reported nuclear opponents far outnumber pro-nuclear attendees.

The forums were established to gather feedback from the Uranium Development Partnership report that recommended ways to add value to the uranium industry, including the construction of a 3,000-megawatt reactor.

While most meetings have been cordial, others have led to heated disputes.

Members of Clean Green Saskatchewan have been attending the forums since the first "stakeholder meeting" in Saskatoon. Yet the organization questions how closely the government will listen to the people speaking out against nuclear energy, said founding member Karen Weingest.

"I don't know if the government is going to listen at all," she said.

"But if we don't give them our opinions, then we're complicit in their decisions."

The grassroots group has been erecting billboards and distributing posters across Saskatoon. Members have also been busy pasting up meeting and date times because they feel the government hasn't done a proper publicity campaign, said Weingest.

"It's true these are public consultations, but not a lot of people are informed that the meetings are coming," she said.

One mayor of a town near the location of a past meeting wasn't aware of the event until the day it was to happen, she said.

The process itself is a rubber stamp for the UDP report that is stacked with people connected to the uranium industry, said Weingest.

"The government is already definitely trying to streamline regulations and cut back on royalties," she said.

Nuclear reactors are too dangerous, too expensive and unreliable, says the group.

The report also recommends other nuclear developments, like a research reactor that could also produce medical isotopes.

The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce wants the government to move on all of the recommendations, including a reactor.

"We think this report is very sound," said McLellan. "We believe the science and that the health effects are mitigated."

The chamber still has questions about long-term power rates with a nuclear reactor and how involved the province would be in the project.

Pro-nuclear development advocates may have been largely absent from past meetings -- and that probably won't change in Saskatoon -- but there is a silent majority that could support nuclear development, said McLellan.

"After the first forum, many of our members felt there was no reason to go," he said. "But we're encouraging members to write to (consultation chair) Dan Perrins and to write their MLAs."

Tonight's meeting starts at 7 p.m.

The forums move to La Ronge Tuesday night, before heading to Regina for two days of stakeholder meetings beginning June 22.

For more information, visit www.saskuranium.ca.


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Old Posted Jun 17, 2009, 1:17 AM
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Meeting hears call for caution
More study required on Saskatchewan's nuclear future: forum

By Jeremy Warren, The Star Phoenix June 16, 2009 Comments (17)

NUCLEAR ISSUE ATTRACTS CROWD: Dan Perrins, consultation chair of the Future of Uranium in Saskatchewan forums, addresses a crowd of more than 750 people during Monday night's meeting in Saskatoon. Photograph by: Gord Waldner, The StarPhoenix, The StarPhoenix

A majority of the more than 750 people who packed a Saskatoon convention room Monday night for the latest Future of Uranium meeting rejected any movement on the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) report that recommended the development of nuclear energy in Saskatchewan.

During an open mic portion of the nearly three-hour meeting, University of Saskatchewan sessional lecturer Chris Jensen asked the crowd to raise a hand for one of two options: Do you support moving forward with the UDP report recommendations, or do you want to halt the report until an impartial study is completed?

A few raised hands were sprinkled across the large, hot convention room at the Travelodge Hotel for the first option. A forest of hands was raised for the second.

The consultation meetings -- Saskatoon marked the ninth -- are gathering public input on the UDP report that recommended several ways to develop nuclear energy on top of Saskatchewan's uranium industry.

Ann Coxworth, the first speaker of the evening, has been with the Saskatchewan Environmental Society for 22 years, but her first career was as a nuclear chemist extracting plutonium from spent nuclear reactor fuel.

"I hope now I can avoid the label of an ill-informed fear mongerer," Coxworth said, to the first of many rounds of applause for nuclear development opponents.

Coxworth was invited to sit on the UDP board, but she declined, she said.

The mandate and composition of the board was a set-up to push for nuclear development, she added.

"(The partnership) was charged with how -- not whether -- Saskatchewan can develop the nuclear industry," said Coxworth.

"It's like a vegetarian being invited to a meeting to decide whether to serve beef or pork for dinner.

"It's not the job of promoters to focus on the weak parts of their product."

Anna Bigland-Pritchard, a 16-year-old student at Borden School, told the audience the Saskatchewan government is not engaging youth on nuclear issues.

"We're not getting properly educated at school and we're left to research the topics ourselves," said Bigland-Pritchard. "Teenagers don't care about newspapers or the news -- they're watching MTV."

Today's children will deal with the negative effects of nuclear power, she said.

"I might have to deal with the mess left by decisions made today by the adults here tonight," said Bigland-Pritchard.

Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce CEO Steve McLellan made his organization's pro-nuclear opinions known.

"We knew years ago that Saskatchewan needed houses, and we built. We know we need nurses and we're trying to fix that," said McLellan. "We now know our businesses and homes need more power. We support the UDP's report recommendations."

After hearing at several meetings that people felt there was a lack of alternative viewpoints in the UDP report, consultation chair Dan Perrins added to the agenda an open mic session.

Previously, those attending the meetings would break out into groups for facilitators to take down their comments for Perrins' final report.

But it wasn't easy to hear other criticisms Monday night. One pro-nuclear speaker was shouted down by an anti-nuclear supporter before a moderator could step in. While there have been similar incidents at past meetings, most have been cordial, said Perrins.

"Everyone should feel free to speak their minds, whether they support (development) or not," he said in an interview after the open mic session.

The UDP report recommended the construction of a 3,000-megawatt reactor and other nuclear developments, such as a research reactor that could also produce medical isotopes.

The forums move to La Ronge tonight, before heading to Regina for two days of stakeholder meetings beginning June 22.

Perrins announced Monday three new meetings in northern Saskatchewan. On June 24, the forum stops in Stony Rapids, before heading to Fond du Lac and Wollaston Lake on June 25.


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Old Posted Jun 17, 2009, 8:39 PM
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Here is an article finally explaining the surveys that have been quoted saying a majority of people support nuclear...

Reading this makes it seem pretty ridiculous that it is being reported that there is wide spread support for nuclear in some places. Coupled with the huge turn out of people sketptical of nuclear development at the UDP meetings, it makes sense that the survey results have been twisted so much.

Don't twist words

The StarPhoenixJune 17, 2009

A June 9 StarPhoenix story about the public consultation meeting in Prince Albert reported that a poll done for the city "found 71 per cent of residents are in favor of investigating nuclear power options."

The city's survey was misleading.

The target amount of citizens for the survey was 382: Do not think that thousands of us were surveyed.

The survey showed we want an industrial park for green energy (87.3 per cent). The majority of us did not believe that nuclear power is green or did not know if it was green, with only 38.4 per cent thinking nuclear was green energy.

Of those interviewed, 71.2 per cent thought the city should be investigating potential opportunities associated with attracting Bruce Power to the region around P.A.

The poll conclusion clearly states: "This study does not directly ask whether people support the development of a nuclear facility. Rather, the main question asks whether (P.A.) should explore potential opportunities."

But the 71 per cent has been repeated often as indicating we want a nuclear power plant. It is not true.

We don't want nuclear power or a facility to create the power. We want green energy and most of us know that nuclear isn't suitable. We want to explore options. Let's start talking about wind power, solar energy and other less dangerous energy.

The citizens of Prince Albert have spoken so let's not twist their words.

Sandy Pitzel

St. Louis

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Old Posted Jun 18, 2009, 5:02 AM
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^ I wonder if those same methods were used in polling the provincial population...


Reactors safer than ever: official
Saskatchewan News Network; Prince Albert Daily Herald June 17, 2009

A nuclear reactor in the Prince Albert area is far from a "done deal," and if such a project moves ahead, the residents of northern Saskatchewan will not be at risk.

That was part of the message delivered by Kevin Scissons, a director of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, as he addressed a small audience at Thursday's Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

"To be clear, there has been no application put forward, by Bruce Power or anyone, to site or propose to construct or operate a nuclear power plant in Saskatchewan."

If and when that takes place, the CNSC will play a key role in ensuring adequate public input and consultation.

It has been some 30 years since a reactor was built in Canada, Scissons said. It is a process that requires a bare minimum of three years before construction could possibly begin.

And, when complete, any reactor will be governed by strict oversight by the CNSC and international agencies, he noted. Thus, claims of an imminent Chernobyl-like meltdown are incorrect, he said.

"Chernobyl has come up in the years. There is absolutely no doubt that none of these facilities could go that way. Any new facilities are built to the highest standards."

The control systems on modern reactors are far superior, he said.

"It's a matter of advising people, one-on-one -- explaining how (Chernobyl) broke down nine safety systems -- and there was no containment on the facility," Scissons said.

The commission, he explained, exists as an objective body charged with ensuring the safety of all aspects of nuclear-related facilities, from mines to reactors and nuclear medicine.

© Copyright (c) The Star Phoenix



Okay, this isn't directly related to the nuclear expansion in Saskatchewan, but it ties in nicely with our ongoing nuclear discussions.

Doctor urges Alta. to build nuclear plants
Canwest News Service June 17, 2009

Alberta should build 100 nuclear power plants to offset American greenhouse gas emissions, a plan that would pay each Albertan up to $1 million, says an Edmonton doctor and businessperson.

Dr. Peter Silverstone, professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta and former senior vice-president of pharmaceutical giant Biovail, said his fascination with nuclear power began last year, after he read an article in The Economist about the energy source's potential to solve the planet's climate change crisis.

"The message I took from that article was that if nuclear power is going to make a difference, it has to be substantial; a few nuclear power plants here and there aren't going to make a difference."

He read a lot on the subject, and soon became convinced Alberta was well-placed to become a big player in the nuclear industry.

Silverstone was so convinced, he spent considerable time and $40,000 of his own money to self-publish a book, How Albertans Can Get Rich Saving the Planet. He said he received no money or input from the nuclear industry.

In his book, he suggests Alberta build 100 nuclear plants over the next 40 years. The province could sell this electricity to the United States, which would reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent, he calculated.

The estimated $500-billion to $1-trillion price tag associated with the project would be carried by industry. But by tacking on a small fee for every kilowatt-hour of energy produced, Albertans could each receive an "annual bonus" of $32,000. For someone who's 20 years old right now, this could add up to $1 million over a lifetime, he says.

In his book, Silverstone talks about the concerns associated with nuclear power: Water supply, waste disposal and safety. He thinks all can be dealt with, and feels Albertans would need a referendum on the matter.

Silverstone has even taken out ads on transit buses to get Albertans to look at his website, www.richalbertans.com, where he gives details of idea that he acknowledged will make anti-nuclear groups in the province "apoplectic."


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I should write a book that suggests Saskatchewan should build 200 nuclear reactors...people are so desperately hungry for information/ideas that they'll buy this guys book...or they won't...I'm kind of curious now
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2009, 1:02 AM
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Uranium poses ethical, moral issues for Sask.
By David Orchard, Special to The Star Phoenix June 18, 2009

Following is the viewpoint of the author, a fourth-generation farmer and politician, who farms organically at Borden and Choiceland.

Saskatchewan has already embarked on uranium mining. Now our government is proposing a nuclear reactor, which will place the province squarely on the nuclear road.

The implications do not appear well thought out.

Saskatchewan does not need the amount of power an industrial nuclear reactor will produce. So is this major step justified? I believe the costs are too high.

Saskatchewan has other options to access additional power.

Incredible as it may seem, Canada does not yet have an east-west electricity grid that connects our provinces, something prime minister John Diefenbaker proposed 50 years ago. Instead, most provincial electrical utilities have tied themselves more tightly to the U.S. states than to their neighbouring provinces.

During the 2003 blackout in Ontario, the lights were on in Quebec, but Ontario didn't have the link needed to access its neighbour's power. It had to buy expensive and dirty coal-fired electricity from the U.S.

Saskatchewan could take the lead in promoting a national east-west grid, which would give all Canadians a sense of energy security. A simple high-voltage line allows Saskatchewan to purchase extra power when needed from Manitoba's existing hydro facilities, without incurring the high cost of building a nuclear station.

A second option involves alternative sources of energy.

Germany is phasing out its nuclear reactors and developing wind and solar generation. In eight years it installed 22,000 megawatts of wind power -- more than Canada's entire nuclear capacity -- and has approved an additional 24,000 megawatts.

Saskatchewan has more wind and solar resources than most places, including Germany, but has done little to develop these indefinitely sustainable sources that don't have the problems of nuclear energy.

Developing solar and wind capacity, access to neighbouring Manitoba's ample hydro power and a sensible conservation plan could look after our needs.

A crucial, unsolved problem with atomic power is its highly toxic, radioactive waste. For decades, until this practice was publicly exposed by Greenpeace, nuclear waste was routinely dumped into the ocean.

Then proposals were made to use rockets to shoot nuclear waste into space. The obvious danger and public opposition killed the plan.

The idea currently favoured is to bury the waste in solid rock formations. Manitoba spent many years studying and experimenting with deep rock disposal. It concluded that no matter how solid the rock, water moves through it.

The "spent fuel" generated by nuclear reactors is millions of times more radioactive than the uranium fuel going in, and this waste remains lethal for more than a million years. Any container that holds it will leak long before that time, releasing the buried waste irretrievably into the environment, leaving a deadly legacy for eternity.

Manitoba has banned the burial of nuclear waste. Quebec says there is no way it will happen there. Virtually every U.S. state has also said no to a nuclear waste site.

For two decades, the U.S. government has planned to bury nuclear waste in Nevada's Yucca Mountain. More than $13 billion has been spent on this site, but, responding to growing opposition, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently pronounced the project dead.

There are now more than 100 U.S. reactor sites looking for a place to get rid of their waste. If Saskatchewan builds a reactor, it too will need to deal with the waste. Pressure will increase for a disposal site in our province.

If Saskatchewan agrees to construct such a site, nuclear stations, Canadian and American, will be anxious to send us their waste. This isn't a future most of us want for our province.

Canada, i.e. Saskatchewan, is the largest supplier of uranium to the U.S. One byproduct, when refined there, is depleted uranium. The U.S. military has used hundreds of tonnes of radioactive depleted uranium munitions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia.

Upon impact, DU-hardened missiles burst into flames and vaporize. Inhaled DU smoke is an agonizing death sentence for many, as the escalating cancer rates in the countries mentioned have shown.

The subject of DU weaponry has been a virtually taboo topic in Canada, but we cannot pretend our uranium is not responsible for massive suffering that will go on for generations. This is an ethical and moral question facing us as a province.

Decades ago, B.C. imposed a moratorium on uranium mining and exploration. Nova Scotia followed. New Brunswick's Opposition leader has repeatedly called for a ban in that province, because of "the risk associated to public health."

During the debate over the proposed Warman uranium refinery in the early 1980s, prominent Cree leader Senator John B. Tootoosis spoke eloquently about the power of uranium, which, he said, had been placed in the ground by our Creator and which, he told us, should never be disturbed.

I believe we should heed Senator Tootoosis's warning.


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Old Posted Jun 20, 2009, 1:14 PM
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If Saskatchewan actually builds a nuclear power plant I will be seriously impressed.
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Old Posted Jun 20, 2009, 8:14 PM
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Premier wants isotope reactor in Prairies

Saskatchewan aims to join market within three years

Patrick Brethour

Dawson City, Yukon — From Saturday's Globe and Mail, Saturday, Jun. 20, 2009 05:54AM EDT

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is moving to build a nuclear reactor and transform his province into a producer of medical isotopes – and a player in atomic research – to step into the gap left by the failure of the Chalk River reactor.

Mr. Wall ran on a platform that included a pledge to build up a full-fledged nuclear industry in Saskatchewan, which already produces nearly a quarter of the world's uranium, but does little beyond extract the ore.

The shutdown of Atomic Energy of Canada's Chalk River reactor creates an intersection of Canada's need and Saskatchewan's nuclear ambitions. Mr. Wall said he discussed the medical-isotopes issue at the Western Premiers Conference this week, and that his fellow premiers agreed that the West could take action – with Saskatchewan taking the lead.

“Maybe the West can provide a solution,” he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

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.

He said he has discussed the issue with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but that the federal government has not yet made any commitments. Mr. Wall said he expects that any funding from Ottawa would be contingent on Saskatchewan being willing to spend money. Private-sector financing would be relatively straightforward, he said, noting that there is a commercial market for medical isotopes.

Mr. Wall is also hoping for expedited federal regulatory approval, so that construction could commence quickly and the reactor could be up and running in three years. That would not help with the immediate shortfall in isotopes, he conceded, but it would mean Canada could still be a participant in the medical-isotopes market in the longer term.

The reactor would be on a smaller scale than Ontario's Chalk River facility, in line with a push to diversify the production of medical isotopes and so minimize the impact of the failure of any one reactor.

Small-scale reactor technology could be useful elsewhere in Western Canada for distributing power to remote areas, Mr. Wall said. There have been sporadic discussions in Alberta about how to harness nuclear power to create the energy and steam needed for oil-sands projects.

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. He stressed that public reaction will be key to how he proceeds. But he said he believes there is more support for nuclear power in Saskatchewan than in other jurisdictions, in part because uranium mining has created some familiarity with the nuclear industry.

Ultimately, Mr. Wall said, a research reactor producing medical isotopes would help transform the province's nuclear sector from mining into a knowledge industry. And production of medical isotopes in Saskatchewan would be in a sense a return to the past, he said – the province was the first to use cobalt-60 in medicine, with the 1949 treatment of a female patient suffering from cervical cancer.

“We have the history, and the uranium,” he said, “so it makes a lot of sense.”
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Old Posted Jun 24, 2009, 2:37 AM
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Nuke plants hike cancer risk: report
By Jeremy Warren, The Star Phoenix June 23, 2009 Comments (5)

People who work in or live near a nuclear power plant face a higher risk of cancer due to radiation exposure, says a research paper released today.

The 30-page Exposure to Radiation and Health Outcomes, commissioned by the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, found nuclear power employees are more likely than the general population to develop cancer or die from it.

Chronic exposure to low doses of radiation causes the higher risk, said the report, written by researcher Mark Lemstra.

A 15-country, 12-year study of nuclear power workers found the employees are twice as likely to die from all causes of cancer than the general public because of the extra radiation exposure.

But in Canada, one of the 15 countries studied, reactor workers were 7.65 times more likely to die from all causes of cancer compared to non-employees, said the report.

Researchers are unclear about the cause of the dramatic rise compared to other countries, said Lemstra.

"We don't know why Canadians are more likely to get cancer than others," he said. "We are going to have to consider revising the protection standards of nuclear workers."

A different Canada-only study still concluded nuclear power workers are 3.8 times more likely to die from radiation-related cancer than non-workers, said the report.

"The results . . . confirm that chronic exposure to low doses of radiation are associated with an excess relative risk of cancer mortality," it said.

The report was presented to a Uranium Development Partnership stakeholder meeting in Regina. UDP, a government appointed board, has recommended Saskatchewan build a 3,000-megawatt nuclear reactor.

Lemstra cited 22 articles in his report, pared down from a review of more than 1,700 articles he found in medical databases, reference lists and on the Internet.

He also contacted 3,042 Saskatchewan nurses through e-mail to gather their views on nuclear energy and health concerns.

Of the 822 replies, 61.8 per cent of nurses do not support the development of a nuclear power facility while 9.49 per cent gave their support. Almost 30 per cent conditionally support a reactor project if health concerns are addressed.

Almost 90 per cent of respondents have concerns about the health implications of a reactor. Ten per cent are not concerned.

The report found outside the nuclear workplace, radiation has effects on the human population.

A German study cited in the report found children under the age of five who live within five kilometres of a nuclear facility are 2.19 times more likely to develop leukemia.

"There's a simple solution: Keep children more than 10 kilometres away from a nuclear facility," said Lemstra.

Children are more susceptible to radiation because in the early stages of development, their bodies are more sensitive to the effects of inhalation, ingestion and other forms of internal exposure, said the report.

"The association between leukemia incidence and mortality from radiation exposure is very strong. The greatest risks are found for youth under the age of 20," said the report.

Health effects of nuclear power go beyond radiation. Consistent cost overruns of constructing a nuclear reactor can siphon off government money that could be spent elsewhere, the report says.


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Old Posted Jun 25, 2009, 2:03 AM
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Sask. should be nuclear 'leader'
Cameco vice-president touts uranium benefits during Regina speech
By Bruce Johnstone, Saskatchewan News Network June 24, 2009 Be the first to post a comment

Saskatchewan is not only "ideally situated" to build a nuclear power plant, but has a responsibility to help alleviate the global shortage of clean, sustainable energy, says a senior executive of the world largest uranium producer.

"We should be a leader in deploying the next generation of nuclear power plants and help facilitate the clean energy benefits of nuclear to the world," said Jamie McIntyre, a Cameco Corp. vice-president.

McIntyre told a Regina & District Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday that Saskatchewan's annual uranium production could supply all of the world's 34 nuclear reactors that use natural uranium.

Those 34 plants produce 20,000 megawatts of electricity, but emit only 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases. By comparison, Ontario's Nanticoke coal-fired generating station produces 4,000 megawatts of electricity, but 17 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

McIntyre said Saskatchewan must share the benefits of its uranium resource with the rest of the world by building a nuclear power plant.

"We cannot continue to position our uranium industry, and the resource that underpins in, as if it were just a stroke of good geological luck," McIntyre said.

"It must be seen as energy asset of global significance and we must learn to embrace it and encourage its further development."

In the next 50 years, the world will see its population grow from 6.7 billion to nine billion. During that time, the rate of world energy consumption will double, consuming more energy than in the rest of human history.

With China and India emitting even more carbon into the atmosphere, the industrialized world must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent and develop and disseminate the technology to achieve that.

Respected bodies, such as the International Energy Agency and World Energy Council, agree global demand for clean energy cannot be met without a sharply increased use of nuclear power.

"In fact, nuclear power may be the quintessential sustainable development technology," McIntyre said.

Nuclear fuel will be plentiful for centuries to come, its consumption causes virtually no pollution, nuclear's costs are competitive and declining and spent fuel can be stored safely for centuries, he said.

Environmentalists, who have alerted the world of the dangers of climate change, must "cease perpetuating the myth that conservation, solar panels and windmills alone can meet human needs," he added.

McIntyre said Saskatchewan must develop all of its energy options, including clean coal, natural gas, renewables such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass, and nuclear.

"With this combination of abundant, clean and low-cost energy sources Saskatchewan would not only be able to power its own economic growth, it could potentially export clean power at a profit and become a global clean energy powerhouse," he said.

© Copyright (c) The Star Phoenix



True public will must decide call to build reactor
The Star Phoenix June 24, 2009

Jim Harding, the retired environmental studies professor who has been leading the campaign to squelch any attempts to expand the uranium industry in Saskatchewan, is talking tough these days.

Hot on the heels of a Globe and Mail feature story on Premier Brad Wall's provincial and national popularity, the anti-nuke enthusiast is warning the premier that he'll face the wrath of the people if the government advances a proposal to make Saskatchewan the national centre of excellence in nuclear research and a source of medical isotopes.

"We have an election in two years and if this government tries to ram this through, people won't forget it when they go to the polls," Mr. Harding told the Toronto paper.

Premier Wall, who seems well versed in former British prime minister Harold Wilson's observation that a week is a long time in politics, consistently has been circumspect about all the national media attention over his popularity and over his campaign promise to add value to Saskatchewan's uranium industry.

Even though the University of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Party government both have been mulling over the idea of submitting a conditional proposal to the newly established federal expert panel studying the future supply of medical isotopes in Canada, the premier insists he won't be acting against the wishes of Saskatchewan residents.

The submission may be a "subject to" proposal, depending on which way the wind is blowing once the commission headed by Dan Perrins issues its final report. As polls stand now, the wishes of residents are clearly aligned with retaining at home as many of the jobs as possible, expertise and benefits of Saskatchewan's rich endowment in uranium. But as Mr. Harding rightly points out, in a province traditionally ruled by populist regimes, the winds can change from right to left quickly.

And the fact that Mr. Harding's forces have successfully packed the Uranium Development Partnership hearings while simultaneously questioning the legitimacy of those hearings certainly could convince Saskatchewan residents who now mildly support the expansion of the industry that they are an ill-informed minority and should be terrified for their lives and that of their children if Saskatchewan were to capitalize on its abundance. However, it's the contention of U of- scientists, officials and government members -- including Mr. Wall -- that Saskatchewan people aren't so easily frightened as they were a generation ago, when they let the economic benefits of this resource slip from their fingers, creating tens of thousands of highly paid and skilled jobs in Ontario instead.

Indeed, as Premier Wall repeatedly points out, this is an issue his party campaigned on as it secured a solid majority in both popular and legislative support in the last election. And while many in the anti-nuke side, such as Mr. Harding, political activist David Orchard and NDP environment critic Sandra Morin, insist Mr. Perrins's work is a sham and the public is being stampeded, anyone who has observed the process can't but wonder which side is doing the stampeding.

While the hearings have been bombarded by scary warnings that Saskatchewan risks becoming a bankrupt Chernobyl of the developed world, scientists at the U of- are counting the benefits a nuclear reactor could bring to this province and their institution. The university's historic ground-breaking work on nuclear medicine could be furthered by combining a national nuclear research facility, the research power of the Canadian Light Source and having all the major life sciences including human, plant and animal research facilities and InterVac housed within a 10-minute walk.

The science, safety and potential of nuclear technology are well known on campus, as are its potential pitfalls. Chary Rangacharyulu, the university's head of engineering and physics department, hopes the U of- could again be a world leader in research in this field. "This is something people would like to do, but it's a very expensive proposition," Tom Porter, a research facilitator at the university, told the Globe.

It is that cost, as much as concern over a change in public opinion, that should command Mr. Wall's attention. While it would clearly be in Saskatchewan's interest to take over, even on a smaller scale, where Chalk River leaves off, it isn't clear that a new reactor is the best option for Canada.

Scientists -- including leading American physicists -- have indicated that AECL's mothballed Maple reactors could be brought up to speed for much less money than building new if the reactors' cores are changed.

Mr. Wall should listen to his own admonishments about the "public policy wisdom" of throwing federal money at such things as auto company bailouts for regional advantage at the expense of the national interest.

© Copyright (c) The Star Phoenix



Doctors propose nuclear watchdog
By Angela Hall, Saskatchewan News Network; Regina Leader-Post June 24, 2009 Be the first to post a comment

An association representing physicians says the province needs its own independent nuclear watchdog as the Saskatchewan Party government contemplates opening the door to a nuclear reactor.

Saskatchewan nurses, meanwhile, rejected the nuclear possibility outright, as public consultations on the findings of the government-appointed Uranium Development Partnership continued Tuesday in Regina.

Dr. Dale Dewar, speaking on behalf of the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA), said in addition to a nuclear monitoring body, the provincial government should launch a long-term study of the health of the province's residents.

"The whole reason that the SMA decided to do anything on this is because our concerns are more for the health of Saskatchewan people," Dewar said in an interview after her presentation.

"I think it's fair to say that the SMA has many members who are very supportive of nuclear energy and think that nuclear energy might possibly be an answer to global warming . . . but we all agree that we want to know more about how this impacts or how this affects health."

The SMA submission noted "shortcomings" in existing research into the health of populations exposed to radioactivity, with one flaw being it's dependent upon industry's self-reporting of emissions.

"There are a number of studies which suggest that low-level radiation exposure is safe, but they are no more conclusive than those which suggest the opposite," the association said in its written brief.

Creation of a body such as a Saskatchewan nuclear safety commission could "oversee all aspects of the provincial nuclear program," including independently verifying radiation levels, the association said. Dewar said physicians also see a need for health-care professionals to play a role in setting health standards for the industry.

The province should also start a "baseline" study of Saskatchewan residents that would extend for at least one generation, or 25 years, said Dewar. Such a project in Britain is what led to the recommendation that use of X-rays in pregnant women should be avoided, she added.

While acknowledging it would be a multimillion-dollar endeavour, Dewar said the health information gathered on various fronts could be mined for years to come.

Earlier Tuesday, the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses said it opposes a nuclear reactor, whether for power generation or to produce medical isotopes, based on a report the union commissioned along with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

"We would have the same concerns about the health of the community (if) it were an isotope reactor, the radiation concerns would remain the same," said union president Rosalee Longmoore.

"We are aware that there are proposals to expand the production of isotopes in other countries and so we believe, our position would be that Saskatchewan should remain safe and let other countries take on that development."

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Government stability, support critical for nuclear reactor: Bruce Power exec
By Jeremy Warren, www.TheStarPhoenix.com June 25, 2009 6:01 PM

SASKATOON — Bruce Power needs the support of the provincial government if it builds a nuclear reactor in Saskatchewan, a company executive said Thursday in Saskatoon.

The nuclear power company needs stability through a reactor’s life, and that requires a “government-backed entity to partner with Bruce Power,” said executive vice-president Dwight Millet at a Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday.

“To recoup your investment, you need a counter-party you know will be there,” said Millet.

“We are looking for certainty from your government that if we build a plant there will be a market to sell the electricity. At some stage, we need that kind of agreement.

“We’re not trying to ram a nuclear power plant down people’s throats — they’re really big and won’t fit.”

Last year, the company released a feasibility study that targeted Saskatchewan as an ideal location for a nuclear reactor, specifically in the north somewhere between Prince Albert and the North Battleford.

Building a two-reactor facility could cost up to $10 billion, according to the Bruce Power report titled ‘Saskatchewan 2020’.

The agreements would give stability to a project that will span decades and different governments, said Millet.

The province just finished a month of public consultations from which input was gathered from the government-commissioned Uranium Development Partnership report that recommended Saskatchewan build a nuclear reactor.

The consultation process, as it has been run, doesn’t help investor confidence, said Millet.

“There could be an issue for investors if the public consultations continue the way they are,” he said.

“(The government) needs to make a decision to consult with whoever will build a reactor.”

Millet ran through his presentation — “A nuclear 101 class” — for Chamber members, and covered environmental, health and safety issues of reactors.

He criticized a report commissioned by the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses that compiled medical studies and found a increased risk of cancer in nuclear power workers and children living near reactors.

“It’s easy to get up and say these things without going into the details,” said Millet, adding the report didn’t accurately reference the source material.

“We have newer and better studies.”


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Nurses go NIMBY on isotopes

By John Gormley, Special to The StarPhoenixJune 26, 2009

This week's performance by the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) at the uranium development consultations was almost worthy of sympathy. But pity might be more fitting.

SUN opposes nuclear power generation in Saskatchewan. Fair enough -- they're not alone.

But the nurses stretched logic to the breaking point when also nixing a smaller research reactor to develop medical life-saving isotopes.

The nurses, along with the left-wing think-tank Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, commissioned a 30-page, non-peer reviewed paper written by a local social activist researcher.

The paper, entitled Exposure to Radiation and Health Outcomes, is a predictable anti-nuke piece suggesting all manner of dire health effects attributable to nuclear generating facilities.

And there are the obligatory mentions in the paper to the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in the Second World War, the 1970s Three Mile Island core meltdown and the Soviet disaster at Chernobyl in 1986.

The researcher even helpfully suggests, citing a New York Times story on cost overruns, that a Saskatchewan nuclear reactor "might actually cost $20 billion," more than double the current projected cost of a

two-unit power generator.

Precisely how this specious and unsupported cost claim has anything to do with "health outcomes" is also conveniently explained -- the province would have to foot the bill for excess billions which would result in a slashing of health and education budgets and that wouldn't be good for our health.

So, the nurses rely on this research to conclude nuclear power plants are not good for health.

But the anti-nuke paper never dedicates a single word to the five nuclear reactors in the world used exclusively to produce isotopes such as the cancer-fighting Cobalt 60 or the Moly-99 and Technetium-99 which are used in 80 per cent of nuclear medicine procedures, including diagnostic tests.

The nurses simplistically lump together every single nuclear facility -- regardless of size or use -- as unsafe.

While the nurses union concedes nuclear medicine is valuable, it argues other countries should look after developing the technology because nurses want to "keep Saskatchewan safe."

With a NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) attitude like this, maybe the nurses union could go one step further and actually drive people out-of-province for cancer radiation treatments, too. But there'd likely be some risk to driving.

The most incredible part of the nurses' performance came when their union leader suggested on my radio show that if diagnostics were used less often, for example "not using MRIs for sore backs," we would actually need fewer isotopes and then an isotope reactor would not be necessary.

It is worth pondering in this increasingly hyped nuclear debate of fear and misinformation if other professionals are going to allow these comments of the nurses union to go unchallenged.

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Nuke fears trump facts
The Star Phoenix June 26, 2009

The release of the report Exposure to Radiation and Health Outcomes by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses is a good example of fear leading fact.

SUN's engagement in the discussion on further development of the nuclear industry is admirable. However, the union is irresponsible for polling members on their perceived effects of nuclear power after it provides them with a collection of one-sided statistics that anyone with Internet access and a few spare hours could cobble together.

The real surprise is that, after reading the preamble provided, that 10 per cent actually would agree there is place for nuclear power. The questions posed were as leading and as unclear as those of the Quebec referendum. This qualitative research should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

SUN is also being hypocritical to poll on nuclear power without even addressing the issue of nuclear medicine. Due to constrained supply of medical isotopes currently generated by nuclear reactors, many patients around the world (including Saskatchewan) have had treatments delayed or scrapped. Why is it OK to generate nuclear waste for medical purposes but not to power homes or hospitals? Are the radiation levels for radiologists and technologists not a concern?

Why isn't SUN polling its members for views on coal-fired power plants? The scientific evidence on the harmful effects from coal are numerous and mounting. Coal plants are more toxic and have greater health implications than any other power source.

Sean Junor

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Evaluate 'facts'
By A.L. Daley, Special to The Star Phoenix June 26, 2009

Following is the personal viewpoint of the writer, a resident of Scarborough, Ont., and an employee at a nuclear power plant.

Considering that I am a nuclear plant worker, my reaction to the article, Nuclear-plant workers face elevated cancer risk: report (SP, June 23), may surprise some readers.

Fear? Dread? Trepidation? A need to run to my doctor and submit myself to a battery of tests?

No to all of the above. I was merely overwhelemd by a sense of curiosity. Curiosity to know the answers to several questions that the article does not address at all.

How many of the approximately 1,678 articles that Mark Lemstra researched but did not cite in his report contained information and data that would contradict his eventual conclusion?

Why did the article not have any comments from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or Health Canada who, I am sure, would be more than happy to provide their own studies and literature surveys which also contradict this report?

How many of the 22 references Lemstra eventually did cite have already been examined and refuted by international experts? For example, the authors of the German study he uses have explicitly stated that they don't beleive their results were caused by nuclear plants. This is in direct conflict with how Lemstra has used their data.

The anti-nuclear proponents historically has been very fond of being selective in their application of data and "facts," and then trying to establish this limited data and these half-truths as the final word on the subject.

As the nuclear debate begins in earnest in Saskatchewan, I would caution all of your readers, before you make up your mind on nuclear power, consider the sources of your information very carefully. Using facts rather than sound bites as the basis on any decision is always the best thing to do.

© Copyright (c) The Star Phoenix



Research reactor would benefit Canada
By Dean Chapman and Beth Horsburgh, Special to The Star Phoenix June 26, 2009

Following is the opinion of Chapman and Horsburgh, research experts at the University of Saskatchewan. Chapman is professor of anatomy and cell biology, Canada Research chair in X-ray imaging, special adviser for the university's nuclear initiative and scientific lead of the biomedical imaging and therapy project at the Canadian Light Source. Horsburgh is associate vice-president research -- health at the U of S, and vice-president research and innovation for the Saskatoon Health Region.

The shortage of medical isotopes due to the Chalk River reactor shutdown has delayed testing and treatment for many heart and cancer patients across Canada and sent physicians scrambling to find alternatives that include exploratory surgery.

The ongoing crisis with this aging reactor that has supplied more than a third of the world's medical isotopes has been called one of the greatest threats to patient care in modern times and raises the question of where Canada and much of the world is going to find a secure supply.

Should Saskatchewan, as Premier Brad Wall proposed recently, try to help solve this national problem by building a research reactor on the University of Saskatchewan campus? We think a research reactor, particularly if located close to the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, would tremendously benefit Saskatchewan, Canada and the world.

The U of S has an opportunity not only to help solve the global isotope supply issue, but to greatly advance Canadian materials science research and make Saskatoon a global centre for both commercial medical isotope production and neutron research. Supplying isotopes to the world would recover part of the reactor's operational costs.

To be clear, medical isotopes are not made in nuclear power plants. They are made in research reactors that generate a high flux of neutrons for many scientific and applied applications, including nuclear medical imaging. And so far, alternatives to reactor-produced isotopes have tended to be unproven, less accurate, more likely to involve higher radiation doses to the patient, more invasive, or more costly.

The reactor-produced isotope technetium-99 is used for about 80 per cent of nuclear medicine procedures that include determining heart function, locating the spread of cancer, and investigating kidney function. Medical isotopes are also used for treating cancers such as prostate cancer.

But neutrons from a reactor can also be used to investigate matter, as did Lethbridge-born McMaster physicist Bertram Brockhouse when he carried out Nobel Prize-winning work using neutrons from the Chalk River reactor.

Neutron beams also enable scientists to develop and test new materials used in modern industrial applications. For instance, neutrons are routinely used to assess aircraft engine turbine blades for defects. Providing an imaging capability to industry would help offset operational costs and foster university-industry research partnerships.

These particles provide a different view of matter than do X-rays produced by a synchrotron. Using the two methods together would give scientists a rare view into the complex properties of materials. Saskatoon would be only the second place in the world (Grenoble, France, is the other) to have both a synchrotron and a neutron reactor.

A research reactor would enhance the unique life sciences cluster on our campus, which includes the CLS, the college of medicine, Royal University Hospital, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, the Saskatoon Cancer Centre, VIDO-InterVac, and several colleges and departments involved in biomedical training and research.

This renowned research cluster has directly led to the new CLS biomedical imaging and therapy beamlines, which have been built explicitly for biomedical research that benefits human and animal health. Our growing expertise in imaging and therapy overlaps the uses of medical isotopes. Many world-class scientists who've been attracted to the U of S due to the presence of the synchrotron could also productively use a research reactor.

Canada is struggling to solve global warming in ways that avoid greenhouse gases, and nuclear energy may increasingly be part of the mix. A research reactor that uses nonweapons-grade uranium would provide a tool for scientists and engineers in nuclear energy research and development, as well as training for a new generation of nuclear engineers.

A research reactor would be a good fit with a concept, being explored by faculty and students from many disciplines, of creating a U of S nuclear studies institute that not only would advance science related to exploration, mining and nuclear medicine, but also examine the environmental and social context of nuclear development.

Of course, a research reactor should not proceed without consultation both on and off the campus, and it would be at least five years off. It's important to note that the campus has lived safely for almost 30 years with a small research reactor owned by the Saskatchewan Research Council.

The U of S has a long history of excellence in nuclear medicine and particle physics on which to build. Cobalt-60 cancer treatment, which has benefited millions and is still used in some parts of the world, was developed in 1951 by U of S professor Harold Johns using material from the Chalk River NRX reactor. Our expertise in accelerator physics helped us become home to Canada's only synchrotron.

Saskatchewan is now well poised to capitalize on the opportunity to be more than just "where the uranium comes from" and to lead the world in this area of sustainable resource research and development, while helping ensure that Canada's patient community has access to a secure supply of medical isotopes.

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Radiation report flawed

The StarPhoenixJune 27, 2009

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) disagrees with the stated conclusions of the article, Nuke plants hike cancer risk: report (SP, June 23), concerning health risks to nuclear plant workers. Canadian nuclear workers are healthier than the general Canadian population and there is no evidence that people living near nuclear power stations have increased risk of any disease.

The CNSC was surprised that the report failed to mention the important conclusion of the 15-country study (IARC study) that Canadian nuclear workers have a 24 per cent lower risk of all cancers in comparison to the Canadian population.

The CNSC acknowledges the influence that the Canadian workers data had on the validity of the results of the IARC study and has initiated an analysis to understand the apparent differences in the risk estimates between Canadian and other nuclear workers. However, there is no evidence that Canadian nuclear workers have a higher risk of developing cancer than workers in other countries or the Canadian population in general.

Several studies conducted in Canada on potential health effects of nuclear facilities on the public have shown that rates of mortality and disease like cancer are similar to those of the general population. The report also failed to note that the authors of the recent German study and the German Commission on Radiological Protection ruled out radiation exposure as a cause for childhood leukemia. In addition, studies conducted in the U.K. and France, using the same methodology as the German study, did not find any increase in risk.

The Canadian nuclear industry is strongly regulated by the CNSC and as a consequence workers and the Canadian public are protected. For more information, please visit nuclearsafety.gc.ca.

Michael Binder

President and CEO

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
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Crucial to have rational debate on nuclear issues
By Mark Lemstra, Special to The Star Phoenix July 3, 2009 3:11 AM

Following is the viewpoint of the writer, who recently published a report, Exposure to radiation and health outcomes.

A number of viewpoints, articles and letters to the editor have been published in The StarPhoenix recently in regards to my report, and I'm writing a general response to clarify the misunderstandings.

The report is being portrayed as "anti-nuke" with "obligatory mentions to ... Three Mile Island." The actual conclusion within the report is that Three Mile Island had "no convincing evidence of increased cancer risk within the first 10 years of follow-up." Along with other conclusions like "nuclear energy has the least amount of overall CO2 emissions," it is unclear how the report can be portrayed as being anti-nuclear.

Where there has been some uproar is over the reporting that nuclear power workers have a 97 per cent excess relative risk of all cancer mortality. The study cited included 407,391 nuclear industry workers in 15 countries who were followed with individual level data for an average duration of 12.8 years.

Among the 15 countries reviewed, Canadian nuclear power workers had a 665 per cent excess relative risk for all cancer mortality (in comparison to 97 per cent worldwide). A second study specific to Canada reviewed 45,468 Canadian nuclear power workers for an average followup period of 7.4 years. It found an excess relative risk of mortality from all solid cancers of 280 per cent.

How could this happen?

Radiation protection standards were based on mathematical extrapolations from knowledge of acute, high dose exposures (mainly the atomic bombs in Japan). The recent research mentioned above has found that chronic, low doses of radiation are also harmful. These conclusions have been wrongfully criticized for not being "peer reviewed," but articles from these data sets have been published in some of the leading journals in the world, including the British Medical Journal.

It is important to note that my conclusion was not to stop nuclear development but rather to suggest that radiation protection standards for nuclear power workers need to be at least reviewed and possibly revised based on recent evidence.

The president of the Nuclear Power Safety Commission recently wrote to The SP that he will "initiate an analysis to understand the apparent differences in the risk estimates between Canadian and other (international) nuclear workers."

My paper has been criticized for not including comments from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or Health Canada. The peer reviewed papers that I discussed were published by scientists from Atomic Energy Commission of Canada, the AECL radiation biology and health physics branch of Chalk River Laboratories and the Radiation Protection Bureau of Health Canada.

The information was collected and published by the nuclear power industry. I was simply conveying the message.

Somehow the discussion in the media has been moved from nuclear power stations to medical isotopes. My report did not address medical isotopes. In general, I am in favour of medical isotope development and a research reactor, providing that workers are protected.

That said, the medical isotope and research reactors being developed in Ontario were recently cancelled after 12 years of effort (eight years behind schedule) and $790 million of investment. The major concern, however, should be that the reactors' power coefficient of reactivity was positive, instead of negative, as anticipated. The scientists were unable to explain the discrepancy between theory and reality, and that is a bit worrisome.

I trust that we can have a rational debate about this important issue. There are some health implications to consider with nuclear power plants and I would hope these discussions are encouraged.

© Copyright (c) The Star Phoenix


Nuclear initiative laudable
The Star Phoenix July 3, 2009 3:11 AM

The Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce strongly supports Premier Brad Wall's expression of interest to pursue a research reactor in Saskatoon, along with the potential to produce medical isotopes.

While much work needs to be done before our province might actually invest in such a facility, the premier's leadership and action-oriented approach is a much-needed ingredient in the formula for Saskatchewan's success.

Saskatoon already has a research reactor. The University of Saskatchewan has a history in research and medical application of nuclear technology. This project is potentially highly complementary to the Canadian Light Source.

These facts, along with our province's historic aspirations to value-add our resources, provide sound logical support for the premier's initiative.

The provincial government's initiative to start the Uranium Development Partnership should also be celebrated as a starting point to understanding how difficult it is to value-add our resources.

While our chamber has criticized this government on certain issues of taxation policy, the government and the premier are to be congratulated for their leadership on this important building block to a stronger and better Saskatchewan.

Kent Smith-Windsor

Executive Director, Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce

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PR war mars nuclear debate, speakers say
By Jeremy Warren, The Star Phoenix July 8, 2009 Comments (1)

The nuclear industry is watching Saskatchewan closely for a decision on bringing large-scale nuclear power to the province.

"We at (Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.) welcome Saskatchewan's renewed interest in nuclear power," said Ron Oberth, Western Canada director of marketing and business development for AECL.

Oberth spoke about nuclear reactor development at a Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday.

Neil Alexander, president of the Organization of CANDU Industries, also spoke and relayed his hopes for a nuclear reactor in the Prairie provinces.

"I'm convinced you guys (in Western Canada) are going to move quickly on this," said Alexander.

In a computer presentation, Alexander did a little prognosticating and placed a red dot -- representing a nuclear reactor under construction -- in Western Canada.

Both speakers said a there is worldwide renewed interest in nuclear power, but that the debate in Saskatchewan is marred with misinformation.

Opponents and proponents are waging PR campaigns as the Saskatchewan Party government studies different ways of bringing nuclear energy to the province, such as nuclear power or medical isotope production.

AECL is a federal Crown corporation that runs and sells nuclear reactors. Its Chalk River facility shut down this year, causing a worldwide shortage in medical isotopes.

Climate change concerns are responsible for the increased interest in nuclear power, said Alexander.

Proponents of renewable energy like solar and wind are really advocating for "whimsical power" because the alternatives can't match the output of nuclear reactors, he said.

"Opinions should be based on factual information rather than the silly stuff read on posters along the river," said Oberth.

He was referring to Clean Green Saskatchewan posters displayed around the city.

Alexander said the byproducts of nuclear fission are responsible for saving lives, from providing material for emergency lighting and smoke detectors to irradiation of food to prevent poisoning.

"If radioactivity is so unsafe, which people have been telling us for years, why is it now that we don't have enough to inject in their veins," said Alexander.

"Maybe there's a context here that radioactivity isn't as unsafe as it is made out to be."

On nuclear waste management, lives might not have been saved, but lives haven't been in danger, added Alexander.

"So far in Canada, no member of the public has been harmed in any way by contact with used fuel," he said.


© Copyright (c) The Star Phoenix



Saskatchewan government and University of Saskatchewan get together to pursue medical isotope reactor
By James Wood, TheStarPhoenix.com July 8, 2009 4:56 PM Comments (8)

REGINA – The provincial government and the University of Saskatchewan have struck a partnership on a plan to bring to Saskatoon a nuclear reactor that will produce medical isotopes, Premier Brad Wall said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, work continues apace on a proposal that will be submitted by the end of the month to the federal government as it considers how Canada can secure a long-term supply of isotopes, he said outside a meeting of the Saskatchewan Party cabinet at the legislature.

A small reactor focused on nuclear material science and isotope production could cost somewhere in the range of $500 million, he said.

“We could just be a world leader in this and again it has to make sense. There are some longer-term funding issues here. We think there is a role for the federal government. We’re not rushing into anything but there is an opportunity for our province to lead and I think we should at least explore it aggressively," Wall told reporters.

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. announced Wednesday that its problem-plagued Chalk River reactor – a supplier of a third of the world’s medical isotopes before being shut down in May – will remain closed at least until the end of the year.

Wall has attracted criticism for his pursuit of a nuclear research reactor before public consultations are completed on the findings of the government-appointed Uranium Development Partnership, which aims to “add value” to Saskatchewan’s world-leading supply of uranium.

He said again Wednesday that the government is working against tight federal timelines and it will listen closely if it is found there is strong public opposition to a research reactor.


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Isotope reactor could cost $500M: Wall
By James Wood, The Star Phoenix July 9, 2009

The province's quest for a research nuclear reactor that would produce medical isotopes in Saskatoon isn't necessarily a competition with other jurisdictions, said the government official co-chairing the working group on the issue.

The province, the University of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency are working on a proposal to be submitted by the end of the month to the federal government. Ottawa is seeking a long-term solution to the production of the isotopes used in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Iain Harry, a vice-president with the provincial Crown Investments Corp, expects Saskatchewan's plan to be one of several proposals to go to the federal government. He believes more than one project could be approved.

"The federal government is not interested in putting all their eggs in one basket. Neither is the rest of the world," he said in an interview Thursday.

"The future of isotope production in the world is going to be from multiple sources and likely from multiple technologies."

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. announced Wednesday its problem-plagued Chalk River reactor -- supplier of one-third of the world's medical isotopes before being shut down in May -- will remain closed at least until the end of the year, fuelling a worldwide shortage of the invaluable isotopes.

Harry said he expects proposals to come from the University of British Columbia and McMaster University in Hamilton.

Ontario-based Bruce Power Ltd., which is contemplating a two-reactor power plant capable of producing 2,000 megawatts in Saskatchewan, said Thursday it's not interested in an isotope reactor.

Richard Florizone, the U of S vice-president who is the other co-chair of the working group, said much will depend on the approach taken by the panel appointed by the Conservative government to deal with the isotope issue.

Questions it will have to address include whether the intent is to supply only Canada's isotope needs or to provide for export markets, the cost of having diversified sources versus one large supplier such as Chalk River and the relative viability of creating isotopes through particle accelerators such as the one at UBC instead of nuclear reactors.

Florizone said the Saskatchewan proposal will be more modest than Chalk River's National Research Universal reactor, which produces 200 megawatts of power.

Similar to the relatively new OPAL research reactor in Australia, a proposed Saskatoon reactor would be about 20 megawatts, with a projected capacity of producing enough isotopes to meet Canada's needs, he said.

"The way that we're approaching it with our expression of interest is kind of up-the-middle, if you will," said Florizone, who also chaired the government-appointed Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) designed to "add value" to the province's uranium supply.

Premier Brad Wall estimated Wednesday the cost of a research reactor could be in the area of $500 million, although that is understood to be a rough calculation.

The Opposition NDP said the government needs to provide more details about its plan.

Facing criticism that the pursuit of a research reactor comes before the end of public consultations around the UDP report, Wall has said the government is working against tight federal timelines and it will be responsive to public opinion on whether to go ahead with such a project.

But NDP environment critic Sandra Morin said that doesn't cut it because the public is in the dark about the government's plans.

"This is something that literally falls on the heels of the consultation process and yet there was no real information given to the consultation process through the Uranium Development Partnership as to proceeding with something like a project of this nature," she said.



The continuing shortage of medical isotopes will cause the postponement of 20 more bone scans this week, says a Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) news release.

The 20 postponements will bring the total close to 208 since Canada's only isotope facility went down for repairs May 14. The Chalk River, Ont., facility's shutdown has sparked debate about the stability of worldwide medical isotope supplies.

Aside from the postponed bone scans, nearly 40 other procedures have been postponed, from cardiac to renal studies, the health region says. The region continues to receive only a portion of its normal allotment of isotopes.

But the news release also said 43 of the postponed bone scans, six of the heart studies, six hepatobiliary studies and seven kidney studies have now been completed.

© Copyright (c) The Star Phoenix



Think long term on isotope issue
By Prof. Robert Mann, Special to The Star Phoenix July 9, 2009

Following is the viewpoint of the writer, president of the Canadian Association of Physicists.

Canadians and the world have turned their attention to Canada's nuclear research program. The necessary shutdown of the Chalk River NRU reactor has caused an international shortage of medical isotopes, giving rise to dire issues for patients needing isotope-based medical interventions, and the threat of lasting damage to Canada's reputation.

The appointment of an expert panel by Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt to seek a sustained supply of medical isotopes is a welcome and important step. The Canadian Association of Physicists has considerable expertise in this area and would be happy to assist the panel.

We would urge taking a long-term and focused view that takes into account the full range of Canada's growing role in nuclear science and engineering. What is needed, and needed promptly, is a candid and informed assessment as to what is best for Canada.

Several options are already worth considering.

McMaster University has offered to produce medical isotopes in the short term until a longer term solution can be found. The Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering has proposed a Canadian Neutron Centre to be constructed for medical and research purposes, and the premier of Saskatchewan has stated interest in having such a facility.

TRIUMF, the national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, if fully funded for its next five-year cycle, may make feasible the production of medical isotopes with accelerators, transferable to the private sector.

Canada's nuclear program over the past 50 years has yielded the first-rate CANDU power reactor system, a Nobel prize, and production of radioisotopes of molybdenum, technetium, and cobalt for medical use worldwide. Canada now needs cutting edge, high technology solutions that provide the range of isotopes needed for medicine, energy and basic research, along with a workforce trained in the basic and applied sciences.

The health of our citizens and the prosperity of our country depend on it.

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix



Selective data led to one-sided report
By Doug Boreham, Special to The Star Phoenix July 9, 2009

Following is the viewpoint of the writer, senior scientist and environment manager for Bruce Power.

The Saskatchewan government initiated a public consultation process to assess recommendations proposed in the report, Future of Uranium in Saskatchewan. This report also addresses the feasibility of nuclear power in the province.

In response to the public consultation process, a commissioned report entitled Exposure to Radiation and Health Outcomes was submitted. The author of the report, Mark Lemstra, claims to have produced an independent summary of the scientific evidence about the health effects of nuclear energy.

This is a challenging task that requires extensive expertise and consultation on the subject. Unfortunately, this report does not present a balanced, scientifically based review. The intent seems to be to convince readers that all nuclear power is bad.

There are too many issues and flaws in the report to address in a comprehensive way here, but I will point out a few of the issues. A formal scientific review is in preparation to help people better judge the validity of the conclusions.

The stated aim of the Lemstra report was to investigate exposure to low level radiation from nuclear power plants and determine the health consequences. However, the selection of research articles to support this aim and the interpretation of results was biased.

The report concluded nuclear power increases cancer risk. These conclusions were largely based on information from cancer incidence seen after high dose exposures.

In the past, high dose risk estimates were used to "guess" about the effects caused by low doses, because no adverse health effects from low doses could be directly observed. Workers receive doses that are low even by scientific low dose standards, and dose to members of the public is so low that it is difficult to measure accurately.

The Lemstra report references a scientific journal article that claims Canadian nuclear workers are at extraordinarily high cancer risk. Interestingly, that same article shows that there is no increased risk in 14 other countries. That result alone (14 out of 15 countries having no increased risk) demonstrates that nuclear power is safe.

Incidentally, the reported excess Canadian cancer risk in that study is controversial. Questions have been raised by qualified scientists regarding the way that important confounding factors, such as the effects of smoking, were addressed in the original report. Furthermore, the conclusion of the Lemstra report is completely contrary to other published epidemiological reports that show Canadian nuclear workers are healthier and live longer than the general public.

Finally, the Lemstra report highlights that there is a suspected increased cancer risk in children living near German nuclear plants. However, it does not mention the fact that even the authors of this report concluded these cancers were not caused by radiation exposure and state this clearly in the original research articles.

For decades, scientists have been trying to estimate cancer risk associated with low-dose exposure to radiation by estimating the risk from high-dose exposures. The fact is, it's incorrect to estimate risk from high acute exposures down to very low dose exposures without scientific data to support the conclusions. It is generally acknowledged that there is no consistent scientific information to show that there is increased cancer risk below an acute exposure of 0.1 Sv (Sievert).

There are important biological reasons why risk extrapolations from high doses are not consistent with real risks at low doses. First, cancer risk estimates from high dose exposures come from epidemiological data such as the Japanese atomic bomb survivors, called the Life Span Study (LSS). Radiation-induced cancer risk was increased in the LSS after high instantaneous exposure to the bomb blast. These Japanese survivors were exposed to radiation under extreme wartime conditions (poor nutrition, poor health, and high physiological and psychological stress).

Their risk then (1945) is used today to predict radiation risk in other human populations. It is clear that cancer risk was increased when Japanese were exposed to high acute doses of radiation from the A-bomb. However, occupational and public exposures from nuclear plants are not high. They are at the extremely low end, where no increase cancer risk was observed in the A-bomb survivors.

Almost every conclusion stated in the Lemstra report has been scientifically refuted.

Low levels of radiation are a part of the natural environment. And even when natural levels are very high (100 times higher than occupational exposure from nuclear plants) there are no reported health risks. Excess cancer risk related to radiation is caused by large acute doses and there is no consistent data that show occupational levels are harmful to workers or the public. Large doses of almost anything (food, water, essential minerals, exercise, etc.) are harmful, but this doesn't mean that low doses are also harmful.

Nuclear power in Canada is a proven technology and has commercial viability, which is competitive with other base load electricity sources. Nuclear power is virtually emission free and is currently the only known source of energy production with sufficient capacity to supply demands while reducing emissions associated with climate change.

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix



Isotope reactor not needed
The Star Phoenix July 10, 2009 4:05 AM

Re: A new face of nuclear medicine; Other materials may be able to take the place of isotopes (SP, July 4). These "other materials" are also radioisotopes, not substitutes for them.

The difference is that they are produced in cyclotrons rather than in nuclear reactors. In fact, the first technetium-99m (the favoured isotope mentioned) was produced in a cyclotron about 12 years before the first reactor was built.

Also a correction: Chalk River produced molybdenum-99 which decays to technetium-99m. The "m" is important, because it means the substance is "metastable," decaying with pure gamma radiation. While technetium-99m indeed is a very short-lived isotope, it decays to technetium-99, a beta-emitting radioisotope with a half-life of 231,000 years.

As Dr. Ruddy states, an enormous amount of research is being conducted into alternative means of visualizing coronary arteries, non-viable tissue and cancer tumors.

Many people have lauded PET scans as a way to avoid the radioactivity of radioisotopes. Not so. PET scans usually use gamma waves from fluoridated sugar molecules (fluorodeoxyglucose), which have a half-life of about two hours.

Many members of the public know that exposure to X-rays and gamma rays increases an individual's total body and lifetime risk of cancer. Are we aware of the exact increase in the risks of CT scans (much greater exposure than X-rays), radioisotope studies and PET scans?

This is not to criticize the use of these very useful imaging techniques, but to have my colleagues and their patients ask themselves: "What exactly are we looking for?" and "How will the knowledge gained change the treatment?"

Does Saskatchewan need a nuclear reactor to produce radioisotopes? Probably not.

Dr. Dale Dewar

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Old Posted Jul 16, 2009, 9:41 PM
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I won't deny it, I am all for nuclear expansion, but I want to see the total costs, and impacts (e.g. economic, social, environmental). Unfortunately, I suspect, such revelations will send the public scurrying away. However, pitting nuclear against alternatives will provide the ultimate revelation.

Additionally, if we can, or if Bruce Power can sell power (and we can derive tax revenue from their profits) to other jurisdictions, more people may be more accepting of the pursuit of nuclear power, and its associated costs. But, the public should be made aware of these intentions, less they be rightly or wrongly suspicious of them. Keep things transparent and manage the opposition of the minority (could very well be the case).

And hey, if nuclear power turns out to be too costly then we will go for something else, no biggie.
NDP questions nuclear price tag
Gov't says costs will be considered in decision
By Lana Haight, The Star Phoenix July 16, 2009

Soaring construction costs that led Ontario to scrap plans for two new nuclear reactors is reason enough for Saskatchewan to follow suit, the province's NDP says.

"Ultimately, any cost overruns or cost increases from your initial project will fall to your citizens and your taxpayers," said Deb Higgins, deputy leader of Saskatchewan's New Democratic Party.

In June, the Ontario government suspended a tender for the reactors, saying the proposal of the successful bidder, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., was billions of dollars more than it could spend. The exact amount of the tender was not released.

The Ontario reactors and the ones proposed for Saskatchewan by Bruce Power are similar in size, but the price tags for the two projects are far from similar.

This week, the Toronto Star reported construction of the Ontario reactors is estimated to be $26 billion, almost triple the $8 billion to $10 billion for the Saskatchewan proposal as laid out by Bruce Power in its feasibility study published in November 2008.

"Why the discrepancy between what's being quoted here in Saskatchewan and what's being quoted in Ontario?" said Higgins, who issued a news release Wednesday.

"We need to see some detail."

But Saskatchewan's Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd says Higgins is getting ahead of herself and the provincial government.

"The government is a long way away from making any decisions. There have been no decisions taken. There have been no agreements struck in any way, shape or form with Bruce Power or anyone else," said Boyd.

He points to the Uranium Development Partnership report summarizing public feedback on nuclear power, which is due this summer, and an all-party committee of the legislature that is looking at energy options. SaskPower is also finding the costs of the various means of generating power.

"Cost is going to be a very, very important determinant about whether the government goes forward or not in this area," said Boyd.

"The premier has indicated on a number of occasions that Saskatchewan is not interested in putting forward taxpayers' dollars into these types of ventures."

But Higgins says the Saskatchewan Party is ready to embrace nuclear power.

"I don't think there's anyone in the province that wouldn't agree that this government supports moving in the direction of nuclear power."

The NDP news release notes the Ontario Energy Board has determined that to pay construction costs of more than $3,600 per kilowatt of power generated would not be economical.

"Using Bruce Power's conservative price estimate, its proposal works out to approximately $4,000 per kilowatt -- a price that exceeds the Ontario Energy Board's economical cutoff," said the release.

Higgins also questioned if the Bruce Power estimate is for the reactors alone, which would mean billions of dollars more would be needed to pay for the plant to house them and for other infrastructure.

"There are many costs that haven't been talked about and haven't been clearly laid out," she said.

While Higgins thinks the government should be aggressive in pursuing alternate forms of energy, Boyd says generating energy is becoming more expensive, regardless of the method.


© Copyright (c) The Star Phoenix



This is more on the nuclear medical isotope proposal, but it falls under our ongoing nuclear discussions.

Time to jump at opportunity
By Gerry Klein, The Star Phoenix July 16, 2009

At 2 a.m. on Jan. 22, 1944, Allied troops hit the beaches around Anzio, Italy, just half an hour's drive south of Rome.

Within 10 hours, U.S. Army Maj.-Gen. John P. Lucas, commander of the invasion force, had already achieved more than a day's worth of objectives. But rather than boldly strike north to Rome, or even secure the Alban Hills that overlooked the coastal plain where he had landed, Lucas cautiously opted to secure the beachhead and continue to land troops and materiel.

The Germans, caught absolutely flatfooted and knowing this force threatened to break their solid Gustav Line, capture Rome or both, rushed back in force into the Alban Hills. For the next four months, what in Lucas's words began as "one of the most complete surprises in history," turned into a war of attrition, with German artillery able to reach every square inch of the beachhead that Lucas was so determined to secure before he moved on.

This episode reminds me of the nuclear debate in Saskatchewan. It seems that those who see the benefits of the technology to the province have been so fixated on consolidating their positions within their respective corporate, academic or political silos that they have surrendered the high ground to the anti-nuke forces.

Saskatchewan can ill-afford a sustained war of attrition like the one it suffered in the 1970s, when it last lost the opportunity to capitalize on its vast uranium resource. This time, however, the potential opportunities are even greater and a loss would be much more serious and widespread.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the proposal being worked on by the province and the University of Saskatchewan to build a research reactor on the campus. This idea didn't just sprout from the concern for Canada's medical isotope supply with the Chalk River reactor's extended shutdown, or even from the federal government's decision to mothball the new Maple reactors.

Scientists on the U of S campus, with support from allies from across Canada, have been working on a proposal to build a nuclear reactor in Saskatoon for more than a year. Such a reactor is seen as the natural next step for an institution and community that already host Canada's largest research facility.

Such a reactor would be used to enhance neutron research for Canada's material science capacity. This capacity, by the way, is not only crucial to the sustainability of Canada's industrial and scientific competitiveness, as Brock University physics professor Thad Harroun explains in an opinion piece in Wednesday's Globe and Mail, it is perhaps the greatest impact to be felt from the shutdown of the National Research Universal reactor at Chalk River that had also been supplying medical isotopes to much of the world.

Canada needs such a research facility, and it should have one that is state-of-the-art.

For many reasons, Saskatoon is the best place in Canada to build it. For one thing, great synergies are to be found in building such a research facility close to a synchrotron. Many scientists who work at one facility can also use the other. It's for that reason that France and Sweden both are building neutron beam centres in conjunction with existing synchrotrons.

Canadian proponents already are calling for their proposal to be named the Canadian Neutron Source, to reflect the CLS.

Saskatchewan and Saskatoon also have a long history of supporting this type of cutting-edge nuclear research, which has resulted in the U of S having one of the strongest clusters of physics academics in Canada. And at this particular juncture, the province also has a government at its helm with the requisite will and the wherewithal to support such an endeavour.

But it's worth remembering that former premier Allan Blakeney, too, was a proponent of making Saskatchewan more than just a place to mine uranium. However, his government's efforts to expand the industry got knocked off course by sniping from the hills.

It's also worth remembering that, as natural and obvious as are Saskatoon's advantages, Canada is filled with forces that would rather the enterprise fail than see it come to the middle of the prairies. Ralph Goodale, the former Liberal cabinet minister who fought hard to have the synchrotron built at the U of S, and his collaborator, Doug Richardson, both have told me they met strong resistance within the government and in Ontario from people who believed that if a synchrotron was so important to Canada, it shouldn't be built in Saskatoon.

It was built here, however, and for that the provincial and university officials can take a great deal of credit. But it still took a Herculean effort from federal MPs on both sides of the House, from city council, which became the first to make a significant capital contribution to the construction of a national research facility, local businesses and a population that was well informed and absolutely committed to ensuring that Saskatoon would become more than a service centre for agriculture and mining.

The city still has a chance to advance its growing reputation as a centre of scientific excellence, but it needs to step up soon. The neutron source is an endeavour City Hall, the business community, our federal MPs and citizens should be supporting, along with officials from the university and provincial government.

The CLS has gained an international reputation for the scientific work conducted here. It has attracted some of the brightest minds in the country and the world, it has been incredibly successful at attracting the needed funds to expand, it hosts one of the world's few biomedical beamlines, and it brings into Saskatoon at least $25 million each year for operating costs -- money that would go elsewhere were it not for the dedication of our leaders a decade ago.

It's time for the community to step up again. We can either boldly press forward or languish on the plains, getting sniped at from the high ground we surrendered in silence.

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^ Thanks for keeping this thread going
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Old Posted Jul 29, 2009, 11:31 PM
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^ Some things are worth archiving.

Public consultation into Sask.'s nuclear future coming to a close
By Angela Hall, Leader-Post July 28, 2009 Comments (4)

REGINA — The man tasked with chairing the consultation process into how Saskatchewan could further develop its uranium resources is closing the public comment box at the end of the week.

But Dan Perrins said it's already clear there's a need for more information on the province's electricity requirements and options, and on the issue of medical isotope production.

"I think it's fair to say people provided a lot of information but they indicated a significant need for more information," said Perrins, whose mandate includes advising the government of the areas where the public needs more data.

Over the last several weeks, more than 1,000 people have written in with opinions on whether the province should be the future home of a nuclear power plant, a small research reactor producing medical isotopes, or a long-term nuclear waste storage site.

All three ideas were among the several possibilities suggested by the of the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP), which gave a report to the Saskatchewan Party government in the spring outlining how the province might get further involved in the uranium "value chain," including mining, upgrading, nuclear power, research and waste storage.

With the window for public input to close Friday, the next step is the massive task of compiling the written comments with the hundreds of opinions voiced at earlier public forums into a report for the government.

Perrins said the desire for more information on the power front centres on questions such as: "What are our power needs? What are the costs? What are the risks?"

But even though much of the discussion has been on the controversial nuclear power issue, there is a growing focus on medical isotopes, Perrins said.

As the nuclear reactor at Chalk River, Ont., faltered, Premier Brad Wall recently announced his intention to partner with the University of Saskatchewan and pitch the province as a possible producer of medical isotopes.

"I think there's significant information needs there," Perrins said of the isotope issue.

"It certainly came up ... On the positive side, (people said) that's what you could use a smaller reactor for ... isotopes and research. On the other side, if I could put it that way, there were many views expressed that there are alternatives to a nuclear reactor with respect to how you produce medical isotopes," Perrins said.

Perrins will submit his report to the government at the end of August. The Sask. Party government has pledged that an all-party committee will, in the wake of that report, hold hearings examining the province's growing power needs.


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Old Posted Aug 2, 2009, 6:48 AM
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Caught up with some protesters Friday evening...about a dozen of them riding in and around downtown.


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