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Sask. to go nuclear?

Sask. to go nuclear?

Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason went off the Richter Scale in the legislature last week. What else is new.

This time it was over Premier Ed Stelmach's nuclear energy policy.

Basically, the policy says let's study it now and come up with a position later after the premier promises to "ask Albertans for their opinions.

"We can't put our heads in the sand," Stelmach told Mason.

(I suspect, though, he was thinking of another place to shove the pesky socialist's noggin.)

Mason shot back, "Why is the premier's government not taking a clear position against locating nuclear reactors in the Peace River region?"

He insisted that the British Columbian, Quebec and Saskatchewan governments "have adopted policies to keep nuclear reactors out."

At this point, Steady Eddie accused the Bus Driver of making "another erroneous statement."

Then the premier began talking about "this imaginary line on the map of Canada between Saskatchewan and Alberta.

"If that plant is going to be across on the other side, what difference does it make?" Stelmach said. "It's still on the same globe."

And suddenly a number of possibilities begin to emerge.

Possibilities that might begin becoming realities as early as 10 days from now when Stelmach sits down with his buddy, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, at the western premiers meeting in Prince Albert, Sask.

Wall has put nuclear energy on the agenda.

While the Alberta Tories are being dragged kicking and screaming into the nuclear power debate, the Saskatchewan Party has taken an entirely different attitude.

In fact, Na Nuke of the North could now be headed east of the 4th Meridian.

Saskatchewan Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd recently told a uranium industry execs' meeting in Vancouver that "Saskatchewan is most certainly on a roll."

He reminded the crowd "we are the only producer of uranium in Canada and the largest producer in the world."

Just like the tobacco farmers in Tillsonburg know their leaves don't become salad greens, Boyd has an inkling that not much Saskatchewan yellowcake gets turned into jewelry.

"Saskatchewan is increasingly coming to be known as the Energy Province," Boyd boasted. "Uranium is a vital part of our energy mix."

But Boyd didn't stop there. He talked about his province's "proven history in uranium production.

"Now we would like to take the next step," Boyd said, "attracting value-added activities in the nuclear fuel cycle."

He specifically listed "refining, conversion, enrichment, fuel manufacturing and electricity generation."

So while Stelmach is still kicking nuclear tires, it's pretty clear that Wall reckons Sakatchewan is a nuclear-friendly province.

And it has been for some time. A curious report surfaced last week that showed the province's power generation corporation, Sask Power, went looking for nuclear power plant locations when the province was run by Lorne Calvert's NDP government. It found the best one on Lake Diefenbaker.

This was the basis for Stelmach's "another erroneous statement" shot at Mason.

A Sigma Analytics survey last week determined 49% of those polled backed a nuke plant in Saskatchewan while 29% opposed it.

"If we're to develop the oil sands with the new technology and use electricity as an energy source rather than natural gas," Stelmach said, "we would need something like 5-7000 mega watts of new generation."

SAG-D extraction requires a lot of steam. Yet the feds have already slapped a greenhouse gas emissions cap on Alberta's coal-fired power plants. So could Wall's nuke fill the gap?

"We wouldn't be opposed," Stelmach said. "Because we do know we need the energy. There's no doubt about it."

And like Eddie says, the border is just an imaginary line on the map.


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