An expert panel has submitted its report to the government of Saskatchewan, making 20 recommendations on developing the Canadian province's nuclear industry.
The twelve-member panel, called the Uranium Development Partnership, was announced in October 2008 by provincial ministers Lyle Stewart and Ken Cheveldayoff of the ministries of Enterprise and Innovation and Crown Corporations respectively.
The group has now submitted its report - entitled Capturing the Full Potential of the Uranium Value Chain in Saskatchewan - to the provincial government.
Richard Florizone, chairman of the UDP, said: "We believe great potential exists for the province of Saskatchewan in the uranium and nuclear industries. We have identified where we believe those opportunities lie and what it would take to successfully realize them. We have also identified efforts that the partnership believes should not be pursued in the foreseeable future."
In its 136-page report, the panel notes that the nuclear industry is enjoying a global renaissance. The UDP says that "it makes particular sense for the province of Saskatchewan to assess its options for benefitting from this nuclear renaissance. The province has a significant, growing need for power over the next several decades, and it is already a major participant in the first step of the overall uranium value chain."
The UDP said that it is making 20 specific recommendations for the province to consider. It said these cover many activities: "from maintaining and protecting existing strengths in the Saskatchewan market; to making strategic investments in the province's capabilities and infrastructure; to working with other levels of government and private-sector players to achieve shared goals."
The report suggests that the province should focus on further exploration and mining of uranium, as well as more research and development. It specifically discourages Saskatchewan from pursuing two value-added ventures related to uranium: the production of reactor fuel and the conversion of uranium ore. It says that market conditions make those activities not worth investing in.
Regarding power generation, the UDP said that "initial examination suggests that up to approximately 3000 MWe of nuclear capacity could be constructed to meet Saskatchewan's power needs and capture export opportunities." The panel also highlighted the economic benefits of a nuclear power plant on the province's economy. It said that such a plant could contribute some C$12 billion over its life (C$1.2 billion during construction and C$10.6 billion during operation) and employ 3000 people during construction and between 400 and 700 during operation for every unit built.
The report recommends that the Saskatchewan government "include nuclear as part of the province's long-range energy mix given its cost-competitiveness as a baseload power alternative and the economic value it would generate." It also suggests that Saskatchewan teams up with neighbouring province Alberta to consider "a common power-generation solution for the two provinces by pooling their power needs."
On receiving the report, Stewart said, "The UDP report has, for the first time in the province's history, put forward a thoughtful, measured and well-researched strategic plan to revitalize and expand Saskatchewan's uranium industry."
He added, "The UDP has given the province a lot to think about. The next step is to engage Saskatchewan citizens in a public consultation process that will facilitate thoughtful discussion and consideration about the 20 recommendations contained in the UDP report."
Stewart announced that the public consultation process will begin immediately.
"I can assure you that no decisions have been made," he said. "The input received will be considered by the provincial government as part of the decision making process. As such, I encourage all citizens to get informed and get involved."
Collaboration with INL
Last month, the Saskatchewan government entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation with the US Department of Energy's (DoE's) Idaho National Laboratory (INL).
The MoU provides a mechanism for the Saskatchewan government and INL to consider research and development projects on a variety of energy sources and resources, including uranium, nuclear energy, heavy oil, oil shale and oil sands. The agreement also provides for potential collaboration on carbon dioxide capture and storage projects.