Energy Sector Marriage

The Joining of Fossil Fuels and Uranium
AECL Targets the Tar Sands

INVERHURON, Ontario – February 3, 2003

There is a proposed new marriage in the Energy sector, or at least a proposed co-habitation. And some public sector marriage brokers are stepping forward to praise the union.

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited has proposed that a nuclear reactor be built beside the Alberta oil sands to provide the power needed to separate out the petroleum from the sludge.

After some investigation, Alberta’s minister of energy announced last Thursday, January 30 that oil patch communities have little interest in becoming hosts to a nuclear power plant. But, asked the minister, why not build one at the Saskatchewan edge of the tar sands? After all, he pointed out, Saskatchewan has the uranium!

Such altruism was unexpected from the usually self reliant Albertans. The minister then went on to opine that Alberta would be quite interested in acquiring the electrical power generated by the reactor, if not actually wanting the plant and its output of toxic nuclear waste on Alberta soil.

The Regina Leader Post reported that a Saskatchewan government official was quick to tell an Alberta newspaper that Saskatchewan not only had the uranium, but it would be able to bury the waste deep in the Canadian shield, which cuts across the north part of the province. Dreams of a Canadian Yucca Mountain?

A member of the government told The Calgary Herald that Saskatchewan would be willing to sell Alberta all the wind power it wanted. Sask Power has opened a wind filed near Swift Current. No doubt with the green energy surcharge would be applied to Alberta purchases!

Meanwhile, Alberta’s Premier, Ralph Klien, told the Calgary Herald that he wasn’t happy about the idea of a nuclear reactor, no matter where it was built.

While Saskatchewan’s NDP government vacillates on the nuclear power issue, enjoying revenues form the mining operation but pretending to moral opposition to nuclear proliferation, it may be moved to support the idea, if only to stave off defeat in an election which is rumored to be planned for June of this year. Saskatoon, an NDP stronghold, is deeply involved and interested in northern development, and AECL has deep roots in Saskatoon and in the University of Saskatchewan’s high tech pod.

The Bruce Centre would like to point out that these developments might not have come to fruition had it not been for the newly minted partnership that has taken over ownership of Bruce Power and the attendant operating lease for the Bruce Nuclear Site. The partnership includes the Saskatchewan based Cameco, largest producer of uranium in the world, and the Alberta based TransCanada Pipelines, supplier of fossil fuels, as well as OMERS, a pension investment house.

In one quick and fascinating partnership creation, a bridge was built between old oil patch energy barons and the relative newcomer to the energy sector, the normally secretive and stand-offish nuclear science community…with a little help from the financial sector. The revived energy cocktail party, recently in a lull and target of ill feelings over the proposed Iraq war, looks to be poised to begin again.

The Bruce Centre has learned that in early February, TransCanada Pipeline officials held meetings with Senators in Ottawa regarding nuclear energy. We have not yet received a response to our request to the office of Alberta Senator Tommy Banks for details of the meetings.

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