Nuclear power costly: Wall
By James Wood,
Province should keep options open on energy: premier
Nuclear power may be too large and too costly for a province like Saskatchewan, which needs to keep its energy options open, Premier Brad Wall said Wednesday.
The comments appeared to be another indication of the Saskatchewan Party government's diminishing enthusiasm for nuclear power a day after the release of the report on the public consultations on the government's Uranium Development Partnership. That report showed an "overwhelming" rejection of nuclear power from respondents. Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd said Tuesday the government had become increasingly cautious on nuclear energy's potential because of the cost.
In an interview before Wednesday's cabinet meeting at the legislature, Wall did not close the door on nuclear power, saying it was still on the agenda.
But while the high costs of nuclear reactor construction are nothing new, he said there are factors that have led to the increased concern over price.
Those include the cost of upgrading the province's transmission system to accommodate the large scale of a reactor, uncertainty around the ability to export the power generated and the increasing potential of electricity generation from natural gas that could remain cheap for some time to come.
The government also remains bullish on the prospects of carbon capture and sequestration technology, with a $1.4-billion SaskPower "clean coal" project already on tap.
"That is one of the challenges of nuclear power. . . . The cost is significant enough that it may just, on a de facto basis, rule out pursuing some of the rest of the envelope, the rest of the options, including clean coal, which is not an inexpensive technology," said Wall.
The premier said it would be a mistake for a government-owned electrical utility such as SaskPower to be reliant on a single source of power. The government envisions a mix of energy sources -- including clean coal, natural gas and renewables such as wind power -- in the province's power supply.
The work of the legislature's Crown and Central Agencies Committee, which will hold hearings in October on Saskatchewan's energy future, will be important in determining that mix and whether it could include nuclear, he said.
The Opposition NDP has accused the Sask. Party of rushing the process, but Wall said Wednesday the government may be amenable to expanding the hearings.
Nevertheless, the premier said he remains comfortable with his end-of-the-year deadline for a government decision on whether to greenlight nuclear power.
Ontario-based Bruce Power, which has not commented on the public consultation report or the government's comments on nuclear power, is eyeing Saskatchewan as the potential site of two 1,000-megawatt reactors.
Wall said he believes there is still majority support for nuclear power in the province, but only if environmental, health and safety and cost issues are addressed.
"I think cost, even for (nuclear) proponents and supporters, is the most important consideration . . . even for those who are comfortable with the health and safety, comfortable with the environmental implications, the cost issue is still there," he said.
NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter said the government does not need to wait until December to reject the Bruce Power proposal, which he describes as fundamentally flawed.
But he said nuclear should continue to be looked at among potential energy options for Saskatchewan.
The government's cooling toward nuclear power seems to indicate an emerging -- if inadvertent -- political consensus on the nuclear power issue.
Lingenfelter, a strong advocate for nuclear development in Saskatchewan during his hiatus from politics as an energy executive, says there is currently no business case for nuclear power in the province. He said Wednesday his past promotion was always based on having export markets in hand for the power generated.
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenixPosted by Arthur Caldicott on 17 Sep 2009