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Nuclear 'least acceptable' oilsands power source
Claudia Cattaneo, Calgary Bureau Chief
Financial Post

BANFF, Alta. - Ralph Klein, Alberta's Premier, said yesterday he regards nuclear energy as the "least acceptable" source of energy to power the province's booming oilsands plants.

The oilsands industry has repeatedly considered the controversial idea to reduce its dependence on natural gas, whose cost is escalating.

The concept was rekindled this week by reports that Total SA, the French oil giant, is considering using nuclear power in its newly acquired Joslyn Project near Fort McMurray, Alta.

Total executives will be in Calgary today to talk about their plans for the project, which they took over through their acquisition of Deer Creek Energy Ltd. for $1.67-billion.

Mr. Klein said he wants to see industry investigate all other energy options to replace natural gas before Alberta will allow nuclear plants.

"I do have tremendous concerns, over the waste, the environmental concerns," Mr. Klein said. "If the environmentalists go nuts over building a dam, can you imagine how they would react to a nuclear power plant?"

Greg Stringham, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, confirmed Total and other oilsands developers are looking at all options to reduce their dependence on natural gas, including nuclear energy.

But he said it may be 10 years before nuclear technology evolves to meet their needs. One of the problems is that oilsands projects are spread over a vast geographical area and would require small plants rather than a large nuclear reactor, he said.

"Until we get there, there is no sense in talking about the public sentiment," he said. "Why would you do that until you solve the technical stuff."

Mr. Klein said he's keener to see the oilsands industry use hydro power from the Northwest Territories, the province's vast supply of thermal coal, energy through the gasification of oilsands waste like coke, or wind or solar power.

© National Post 2005