Alberta's environment minister says he was surprised to hear a company is interested in starting down the path of applying for approval to build the province's first nuclear power plant in the northern oilsands.This is where the fallacy of "no alternatives" gets you. If you believe that Canada's future lies with the tar sands, then you must believe one of two things. Either:
Guy Boutilier says there is no movement towards nuclear energy from the province's standpoint.
The company, Energy Alberta Corporation, is in preliminary talks with three energy companies about building a nuclear plant to produce steam, which is used to separate bitumen – or thick crude oil – from sand.
The approval process could begin next March, with a decision by 2009. If approved, the reactor could be in operation by 2014.
A) We need to continue making tar sands out of carbon fuels, replacing dwindling natural gas with coal. This has been proposed by Premier Ralph Klein. (Of course Klein also said he was opposed to the use of natural gas in oil sands, showing how connected to reality he is.)
B) We need to build a nuclear plant so that we can continue desecrating cubic kilometers of Canadian soil. Progress!
Of course, neither answer is the correct one. The correct answer is:
C) Admit that the tar sands are an economic, energy, and environmental failure, and begin investing our billions in renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. Of course, this won't help the fortunes of the Conservative party, so I can't imagine it will get done in this government.
It will actually be interesting to see how Alberta reacts to the end of Canadian natural gas. This will doom the oil sands as they're currently produced, meaning Albertans will face the choice above. Coal will mean worse air quality and more dead children. Nuclear will mean, well, nuclear. And the collapse of the tar sands would mean an economic black hole in the heart of Canada.
No alternatives, indeed.