Ryan Meili Calls on NDP MLA's To Oppose Sask Party Nuclear Resolution

For an interesting counterpoint to Meili's position on the possibility of a nuclear reaction for Saskatchewan (see below), read Dr. Jim Harding's excellent essay on Dwain Lingenfelter's position, “Trapped by History“.  (Edit: Accidental Deliberations has more on this subject as well.)

March 31, 2009

Nuclear Power: Not a Viable Solution
Ryan Meili calls of NDP MLAs to oppose SaskParty nuclear resolution

On Thursday, the Saskatchewan Legislature will debate a motion by Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison supporting the development of nuclear generation in Saskatchewan.  NDP leadership candidate Ryan Meili has issued the following statement.

The Wall government’s uranium resolution falsely frames the debate on nuclear energy and uranium development.  

Nuclear power is not a viable solution to Saskatchewan’s energy needs. It is too expensive. It is too risky. It is too slow.

I am calling on all 20 New Democratic Party MLAs to vote “no” on this misleading motion.

Nuclear power is being sold to us as a means to provide cheap energy, as a means of addressing immediate energy needs, even as a means of protecting our environment.
But none of these sales pitches are based on the facts.

•    Nuclear power isn’t cheap. A nuclear reactor is a very expensive undertaking and the people of Saskatchewan will pay for it on their electricity bills for a long time to come, if it is allowed to be built. We pay 10 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity now. Whether its Bruce Power or SaskPower, no one will build a nuclear reactor in Saskatchewan for less than 20 cents per kilowatt hour – double the current price of electricity. That simple fact is why most private sector utilities in the United States have been avoiding nuclear power – they know there are too many hidden costs and that most nuclear power construction projects have huge cost over-runs. Add to that expensive repair bills, the high cost of disposing of radioactive nuclear fuel waste and the very high cost of decommissioning a radioactive reactor core. When compared to wind power at 11 cents per kilowatt hour and electricity conservation at less than 6 cents per kilowatt hour, nuclear power’s economics make no sense.

•    Nuclear power puts our environment at risk. Yes, nuclear power can reduce the carbon footprint. But that assumed you ignore the massive carbon emissions involved in building the reactor – particularly if it is built in a remote area. A nuclear reactor will also produce intensely radioactive waste materials which no country on earth has successfully disposed of. Why should the next generation of Saskatchewan residents bear the burden of disposing of this radioactive waste material, with the worry that it must be kept out of ground water supplies for tens of thousands of years into the future.

•    Nuclear power doesn’t address our immediate energy needs. Nuclear reactors are not designed and built quickly. Sites are not chosen quickly. Even if the process started today, it would be nearly 20 years before a proposed nuclear facility contributed a single watt to the energy grid.
•    Nuclear power doesn’t address our long-term energy needs either. It is simply another non-renewable resource which, by current projections, will have exhausted itself well within a century and possibly within a generation.

The Wall government has appointed a committee to investigate the possibilities of nuclear power in Saskatchewan. As the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran bishops in Saskatchewan recently pointed out, this committee is not a balanced group of open-minded citizens. It is a committee hand-picked to give Premier Wall the answer he wants.

Many of us will remember countless expert panels on this issue over the years. My fellow leadership candidate Dwain Lingenfelter has proposed a panel of his own to study this issue. Many progressive activists have become quite cynical about these “studies / panels / commissions.” Too often, their final recommendations have appeared to be predetermined. That is certa
inly so in this case. It is likely to be the case regardless of who appoints the panel.

Nuclear power, on the evidence, is too expensive, too risky and which meets neither our short term nor our long term energy needs.

A far better approach – both more principled and more pragmatic – is to pursue real alternative and renewable energy sources: solar, wind, biomass, geothermal. Pursuing these in concert with well considered and effectively supported energy conservation initiatives will be far more effective in meeting our immediate and long term energy needs at less expense and with less risk.

We need to consider our energy future. Limiting that consideration to an either-or discussion of nuclear power narrows the debate and ignores our best options.


Malcolm French
(306) 550-2277

The text of Mr. Harrison’s motion is as follows:

That the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan supports the consideration of further value-added development of Saskatchewan’s uranium industry including nuclear power generation and recognizes the potential benefits to the growth and prosperity of the people of our province.

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