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Nuclear issue raised again

The issue of nuclear power in the province was back in the news last week with word that the provincial government was considering small-scale nuclear reactors for the province.

The issue of nuclear power in the province was back in the news last week with word that the provincial government was considering small-scale nuclear reactors for the province.

Last week, reports circulated that Premier Brad Wall said his government was hoping to potentially announce a partnership with a private company on the possibility of building small nuclear reactors that could plug into the grid. The idea is for such reactors to supply medical isotopes and also possibly replace the coal output in the province.

The latest nuclear rumblings have re-ignited interest in the Battlefords as to whether the community could one day host a nuclear reactor. A reporter posed a question to new Chamber of Commerce president Scott Campbell about his thoughts on the issue in Battleford on Thursday following the President's Dinner.

"I would like to see nuclear energy in Saskatchewan," said Campbell, "if it makes environmental sense. If it doesn't make environmental sense, I don't think we should have it. But I think it's a great way to have good, steady jobs for a long period of time, but like I say, it has to be good for our children and their children's children."

The Chamber had been involved in the nuclear debate in the past, but Campbell did not expect to see the local Chamber get involved, at least for now.

"I think if it going to become a real possibility it would be time to talk about it." Campbell said. "At this point I don't think there's any point in talking about it because it's largely speculation."

The nuclear issue was a particular hot-button topic during 2009 in the area, as the Battlefords was one of the communities seen as a leading candidate for a potential large-scale nuclear reactor. A feasibility study by Bruce Power in 2008 had identified the Battlefords as one of three potential viable sites for a new nuclear power plant.

The Battlefords Chamber of Commerce was particularly active during 2009 in organizing several "educational events" in the community, bringing in a wide variety of speakers on topics about nuclear power. Speakers that year included former Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore, cabinet minister Ken Cheveldayoff, business journalist Paul Martin and other individuals.

However, several of those events were crashed by anti-nuclear activists, who frequently took to the microphones at those meetings to challenge the speakers and voice their objections to nuclear power.

Nuclear opponents also staged their own speaker events in the community against nuclear power, and were out in full force during the public consultations on the Uranium Development Partnership report, held at the Don Ross Centre in North Battleford and around the province.

The immediate prospect of a reactor for the Battlefords was grounded in late 2009 when the provincial government said it would be backing off from supporting a large-scale reactor. However, the government did accept most of the rest of the UDP report's recommendations, which included leaving the door open to smaller-scale reactors.

On the heels of the latest nuclear rumblings, environmentalist activists have voiced criticism. Provincial Green Party leader Larissa Shasko slammed the small-scale reactor proposal in a news release on Friday, saying the government "has not listened to the public consultations in 2009 which overwhelmingly said 'we don't want the nuclear industry in our province.' " Shasko also accused the premier of turning a "blind eye to our democratic rights as citizens."