Nuclear power may soon join hydro as a part of Manitoba’s energy supply.
The town of Pinawa is working out a tentative agreement to set up a nuclear power plant near town in an effort to help the environment and improve the small town’s economy.
Pinawa Mayor Blair Skinner has been in talks with the Province of Manitoba and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) to set up a nuclear power plant on a site that formerly contained a nuclear research plant.
“A nuclear generating site would bring huge economic development to the town,” Skinner said.
Danny Blair, a geography professor at the University of Winnipeg, believes it’s a good idea for the province to produce nuclear energy.
“Just a few years ago anyone involved in environmental research would have said definitely not nuclear,” Blair said.
But with climate change now posing a bigger problem, Blair said nuclear power is looking more appealing.
Nuclear energy doesn’t produce greenhouse gas emissions and could help reduce emissions in coal-burning provinces or states.
“We need to do whatever we can as a whole to stop burning coal,” Blair said.
Gaile Whelan-Enns, director of Manitoba Wildlands, believes there is no need for rushed action.
Manitoba should develop an energy plan before building the new power plant, she said.
“We need to figure out how much energy we want to develop,” Whelan-Enns said.
The province should legislate a plan for the type of energy being produced and targets for energy production and job creation to guide the province’s energy policy, Whelan-Enns added.
With Manitoba Hydro’s current three dam projects, the province expects to produce enough power to satisfy demand and export power to both Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The energy supply added by the nuclear plant will create an even larger surplus to sell.
“Do we need it? No,” said Skinner. “But if it brings economic benefits to the province then it should be considered.”
Adding nuclear power would also diversify energy production in the province in case Manitoba Hydro faces a season of low water levels, he said.
Whelan-Enns doesn’t think we need the new plant.
“It’s very expensive in terms of reducing emissions,” she said.
Instead, the province should work to reduce energy consumption through conservation, promoting energy efficiency and retrofitting buildings, Whelan-Enns said.
The plan is currently in its preliminary stages.
According to Skinner, both AECL and the minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, Greg Selinger, have expressed an interest in the project.
Skinner hopes to hold public consultations as the project goes forward to address environmental concerns.
Published in Volume 63, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 5, 2009)