Take a Narrow Health Site Survey

This sort of survey isn’t going to make the best website possible for our country.

I found the survey easy to take, but the results will be skewed toward the menu options listed, instead of answering the question ask which was “where would I look for X”, which is “Google”. Making sure existing links continue to work forever, would be the best way to ensure material is locatable by the public.

Solar Power for all Saskatchewan households

A recent poll has shown that nuclear power doesn’t have majority support in Saskatchewan, and I think that’s fine. My own family has mixed attitudes toward it. My parents, who own 17 solar panels, wouldn’t mind seeing nuclear power in Saskatchewan, while I oppose the waste-producing nuclear technology available today.

A 2010 study by the CCPA shows “nuclear power has the potential to triple current electricity rates for Saskatchewan consumers.” If we’re going to pay more than we do for Estevan’s coal and Manitoba’s hydro, I want us to invest in solar power.

The massive Ivanpah solar power facility that opened this year for California consumers should be considered as an option for sunny and vast Saskatchewan. Smaller solar plants such as this type could be constructed with mostly Saskatchewan and Canadian materials, knowledge, and labour. Built at the 3 year pace set by California, we could jump to having solar power overtake some fossil fuels as our electricity provider, before 2020.

Given that there are about 410,000 households in Saskatchewan, we’d need about 3 Ivanpah style solar power plants to provide electricity to every home in the province. We can do it, and we should.

Canadian Uranium Subsidies to Kazakhstan

Here’s an important story for Canadians, and Saskatchewanians in particular, which doesn’t have to do with the Riders or the Senate scandal.

The Green Party of Saskatchewan (GPS) wants to know why the Wall Government is still subsidizing Cameco. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) recently reported that Cameco owes $850-million in back taxes. And just recently Canada and Kazakhstan signed an agreement to jointly invest $200-million to develop a uranium conversion facility capable of feeding 40 nuclear reactors in Kazakhstan.

If uranium is profitable, then Kazakhstan should be able to build a uranium conversion facility without Canadian tax dollars. Why are the hard earned dollars of Saskatchewan taxpayers being used to build an expensive uranium conversion facility in Kazakhstan? This is not right. Saskatchewan people do not pay taxes so that our governments can squander that money in risky foreign ventures. Cameco’s back taxes should remind all Saskatchewan people that the uranium industry would not exist without government subsidies. If we cut uranium subsidies, this industry will die a natural death. The Wall Government should sell its shares in Cameco and urge the federal government to stop using our tax dollars for risky foreign ventures.

Victor Lau, Leader of the GPS
Regina, Saskatchewan

Fukushima Keeps Staying The Worst

It’s always been /worse/. And it just keeps staying tragically the same. It’s remained a global crisis with hemispheric deadly consequences. Japan could still wind up largely uninhabitable (if it isn’t already). Canada could suffer directly a great deal.

Steam and non-water vapour has been off-gassed since the beginning.

The supporters of nuclear power have always been wrong about the extent of the damage to our environment. We have hundreds of tons of highly dangerous waste water piling up by the day at Fukushima, with no way to stop it. Can research and a better plan come soon enough to save us?

ADDED: May writes to ministers.

Coal Hard Truth #skpoli

The Leader-Post may be giving kudos to the Sask Party’s singular focus on Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS), but I won’t be. The primary reason CCS (clean coal) is getting so much Conservative and Sask Party government funding, is because it’s a hidden subsidy to the oil industry so that they can recover more oil from otherwise exhausted oil fields.

“We have a great story to tell,” Wall said.

We need more than a fairy tale, or a Sask Party narrative to save us from climate change. We need significant improvements in energy efficiency in our homes and transportation utilization, as well as plenty of increased investment in renewable energy.

On the question of overall provincial support for the environment, the NDP Opposition correctly notes the Sask. Party government cut funding for climate change activities by 73 per cent in the past two years. This is not exactly a great record for Wall when he goes to Pittsburgh or Washington to tout Saskatchewan’s clean energy.

Friends recently told me that PARC at the UofR had been cut significantly, since I last noted on my blog that PARC was a significant admission by the Sask Party that climate change is coming, and will be a huge economic and quality of life game changer. The lack of meaningful investment in renewable energy leaves Saskatchewan behind in the global economic situation emerging.

One year ago, the opposite from the oil industry:

“Our decision was essentially based on the fact that we could not see a way to make the economics of our CCS project work as we originally intended,” said Don Wharton, vice-president of policy and sustainability at TransAlta.

He said markets for pure carbon didn’t develop as expected, and federal and provincial governments took no steps to recognize the value of reduced emissions by implementing a price on carbon, for example, or a cap-and-trade system.

In short, despite nearly $800 million in government subsidies, the company had no incentive to invest in CCS.

The “Clean Coal” lie rolls on. Now it has a new timeline for implementation. Let’s collectively watch it be missed (again).

The government boasted at last week’s Boundary Dam symposium that the project will be up and running this fall and completed by next April, on time and on budget. It will reduce CO2 emissions at the plant by 90 per cent (one million tonnes a year) by shipping emissions 60 kilometres to Weyburn’s enhanced oil recovery project.

From 2009:

“The committee will complete work on the development phase by August 31, 2009, including a full project plan, engineering design, business plan, detailed budget and construction timeline.

With the financial support of the Governments of Canada and the United States, construction of the plant could begin as early as September 2009 and the plant could be operational as early as the summer of 2011. The goal for the reference plant is to test a range of technologies in the capture of up to one million tonnes of CO2 over a four-year period.”

Gag A Town

A very disturbing bit of news from northern Saskatchewan is getting some press recently. This was sent to me on the weekend about a gag order issued for Canadian citizens in a northern community named Pinehouse. Pinehouse’s political leadership may sign away their citizens’ constitutional rights (which isn’t legal, obviously), to store nuclear waste.


Revelations last week that the northern Saskatchewan community of Pinehouse is set to sign a so-called “Collaboration Agreement” with uranium giants Cameco and Areva have sparked outrage in the community due to terms of the agreement that residents say is a blatant attempt to silence opposition to the expansion of uranium mining in the area.

Terms of the agreement include:

§  “Pinehouse is expected to fully support Cameco/Areva’s mining”

§  “Pinehouse will support Cameco/Areva’s Existing Operations,” “Pinehouse will support Cameco/Areva’s Proposed Projects” and will “Support Cameco/Areva’s Future Operations” (emphasis in original)

§  “Pinehouse promises to: Not make statements or say things in public or to any government, business agency that opposes Cameco/Areva’s mining operations.”

§  “Pinehouse promises to: ““Make reasonable efforts to ensure Pinehouse members do not say or do anything that interferes with or delays Cameco/Areva’s mining, or do or say anything that is not consistent with Pinehouse’s promises under the Collaboration Agreement.”

Read the full text of the Term Sheet summary, Cameco-Areva-Pinehouse Collaboration Agreement.

While communities have the right to enter into agreements with industry, many residents of Pinehouse are opposed to the agreement as it currently stands, especially the terms which are nothing more than a blatant attempt to silence residents who are opposed to the expansion of uranium mining in the region, and argue that there has been almost no consultation with community members on this far-reaching agreement.

Despite this, the collaboration agreement states, “The Parties want to sign the Collaboration Agreement by December 31, 2012” and there are indications that it may be signed next week.

Residents of Pinehouse have asked for your support!

Then let’s not forget that this recently happened in northern Saskatchewan too, regarding nuclear waste (not to mention human waste who said it about a boy):

As Close As We’ll Get

SaskAdapt.ca feels like waving the white flag, but it is an important website, and a project at the UofR. It’s also the closest we’ll get to an admission from the Sask Party government that climate change is real, and is a grave threat to our people (and every living thing today).

Wind power

Speaking of this, has anyone heard a peep from the Office of Climate Change, touted by the Ministry of Environment about two years ago? I haven’t, but I did give a call to the Climate Change branch of Environment, and they said they are it, the office set up in the wake of the legislation for the Office of Climate Change. Continue reading

Nuclear Insurance Fraud

Have you wondered why so many people oppose nuclear power generation when there are so many ads claiming there’s a “nuclear Renaissance” and that it’s “green” or “sustainable” and free of greenhouse gas emissions? There are smart people like George Monbiot, and even my dad who think there’s room for nuclear power on our grid. I don’t share their enthusiasm.

The only Renaissance has been in the ability of the nuclear industry to sell greenwashing to the masses through mass media. The only thing green about nuclear power is that its plant life cycle produces less smog and greenhouse gas than coal per Watt. And it’s not cheap; Ontario is still paying for nuclear plants that are not in operation any longer, and nuclear power plants can’t be insured for their true value or risk to public safety. If nuclear plants were instead a car, they wouldn’t be allowed on the road in Saskatchewan!

Recent research by Versicherungsforen Leipzig GmbH , a company that specialises in actuarial calculations, shows that full insurance against nuclear disasters would increase the price of nuclear electricity by a range of values – €0.14 per kWh up to €2.36 per kWh – depending on assumptions made.

A new paper from Zelenicka-Zovko and Pearce (for Queens University in Kingston, Ontario) summarises the full extent of that indirect subsidy – assessed at $33 million (in 2001 $) per reactor per year. They calculate what the economic value would be if that kind of indirect subsidy was transferred to solar PV in the form of equivalent loan guarantees. The conclusion is startling:

“By the year 2110, the money now slated for nuclear insurance premiums in the US could produce an additional $5.3 trillion if invested in solar PV loan guarantees.”

And here’s why you should be skeptical of claims to the contrary of these findings:

“The new evidence we commissioned for this study suggests that it’s going to be very difficult to estimate the total costs for a new programme based on any new reactor design. All we have to go on are industry estimates, and our evidence clearly demonstrates, on the basis of historical performance, that considerable scepticism is warranted in assessing the reliability of estimates from the industry itself – or indeed from governments that are not acting in a genuinely impartial way.”

AHEM, the Sask Party claimed a “caution light” after the public gave a resounding “NO” to nuclear power expansion here in 2007. Impartial they were not; everyone knew who buttered their bread.

“Finally, the Committee’s estimate also makes no allowance for additional, post-Fukushima cost increases.”

Isn’t that like failing to look at security at airports after 9/11?

“The late John O’Blackburn of Duke University calculated a ‘historic cross-over’ of solar and nuclear costs in 2010 in the US State of North Carolina. Whereas ‘commercial-scale solar developers are already offering utilities electricity at 14 cents or less per kWh. Blackburn estimated that a new nuclear plant would deliver power for between 14-18 cents per kWh”.

And that’s why no more nuclear power plants of the conventional sorts we’ve seen the last 50 years, need to ever be built again.

“It’s still not too late for [insert region here]. But you’ve become a big part of the problem. Your inability (or unwillingness) to track solar cost trends has marooned you in a weird contrarian crusade to undermine the solar industry – even as you volunteer your services as a mouthpiece for the nuclear [or insert other like coal] industry.”

Please, don’t be a mouthpiece for the nuclear industry, and instead join those of us who want 100% renewable energy by 2050 on Earth.

See Inside the Fukushima Nightmare

For the first time, I recently saw photos of the tsunami that hit the nuclear power plant Daiichi at Fukushima Japan. As I predicted soon after the disaster in March, there was going to be a meltdown. The evidence then available to me that TEPCO wasn’t being honest about the severity of the damage were the videos of the hydrogen explosions, the detection of isotopes nearby the plant that shouldn’t have existed unless the fuel was exposed to open air, and the information that corrosive seawater was desperately being applied to the hot reactors. The seawater was a dead giveaway, because if there was any hope of saving the reactors, seawater would not have been used on them.

I don’t trust the American or Canadian governments to be giving us accurate information about radioactive isotope contamination of our food in Canada. I wish I had a Geiger counter, because I’d be testing things here in Regina to see if they have an abnormal number, and eat and drink accordingly. It’s painfully obvious that nuclear power should have been an issue in the last election, but it didn’t even make a blip in the media circus of the campaign. You think they could have taken some of their crack reporters assigned to Harper, and when he told them to piss off after just 5 questions, they could have spent the rest of their day doing some coverage of the issues affecting the health and power bills of Canadians?

For those keeping morbid score at home, check out Gormley’s record, and then look at mine.

Nuclear: Issue That Wasn’t

(The following was to appear on The Real Agenda on canada.com, but due to time or editorial unhappiness with my previous rejected submissions about the state of Canada’s media as an election issue, it never appeared.)

April 26 became a famous date in 1986 for a major catastrophe that destroyed a city and ruined the lives of thousands in Ukraine and surrounding areas. The Chernobyl nuclear reactor went out of control. Decades later humans are still using nuclear power, and we’re still experiencing catastrophes related to our dependence upon high-energy lifestyles. Fukushima’s nuclear disaster in Japan could have triggered a major election issue in Canada like it did in Germany recently, but so far it has not. So too could have the Chalk River isotope reactor crisis, especially after the partisan firing of Linda Keen, the former President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Keen has since endorsed Elizabeth May of the Green Party. For some reason, nuclear power, and Canada’s energy strategy, was given little attention by the media in the 2011 campaign.

In 2008, the election buzzed with climate change as an issue; remember the Green Shift? Whenever you mention energy policy, climate change has to be one of the considerations, since air pollution is a major factor to much of Canada’s energy, especially in my home province of Saskatchewan where most of our power comes from coal burning. Even in 2006, the Conservatives swept to power with one of their promises being a “Made-in-Canada” climate change solution to replace the unfulfilled Kyoto Accord. Now both plans seem forgotten and unapproachable by most politicians, despite their extreme importance to our economy and ecosystems upon which our economy and life relies!

Do we develop the Tar Sands as fast as possible, while potentially missing out on higher oil prices in the future? Do we expand uranium mining in Saskatchewan; build more nuclear power plants; increase hydraulic fracturing for natural gas? Are the parties thinking about thorium reactors as an alternative? Do they have the MP candidates who understand science, and the urgency of solving Canada’s energy and climate change problems? As you can see, questions come easily, but answers do not. What I’d like to see is Canada focus on renewable energy solutions, and try to leave nuclear, coal, oil, and even natural gas in the past as much as scientifically possible.

When people tell me that I’m a dreamer, I’ve started to tell them, “I’m not the only one.” For instance, I think Canada can change its entire vehicle fleet to one that uses 50% less oil, within 5 years. During the last World War, we invented, mass produced, and scrapped entirely new (flying and armored) vehicles in that time frame, while under national pressure to succeed. The same Canadian innovation is possible again to deliver safe and efficient civilian vehicles that have the effect of doubling our transportation oil supply.

We can do the same with making our electrical grids more sustainable by growing our renewable power industries. Legislative support for renewable energy, and home energy efficiency is required to quickly grow the “green collar” job sector of our economy. I look forward to more parties talking about this, and more media coverage of it as well. There are cheaper and healthier alternatives to industries that leave massive tailing pools, kill indirectly with air pollution, or create $132 Billion clean-up projects for future politicians to implement fixes for.