by Braden Dupuis
The Government of Saskatchewan is increasing its investment in nuclear research and development.
According to the 2013-14 provincial budget, Innovation Saskatchewan will be receiving just over $28 million – an increase of $21.2 million over last year’s budget.
Most of the increased funding, $16.4 million, will go toward a Cyclotron – a type of particle accelerator used for nuclear physics experiments.
The rest will go toward the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation at the University of Saskatchewan.
While the opposition NDP disagreed with many facets of the tabled budget, the increased funding for Innovation Saskatchewan offered, at least in part, an air of uniformity.
“I think in terms of medical isotopes, that’s important nuclear research, and it’s certainly something that I think our party would support,” said Cathy Sproule, the NDP’s critic for the environment.
While Sproule believes medical research is worth the NDP’s support, the lack of concrete information concerning the nature of the nuclear research leaves the opposition with some doubt.
“We haven’t seen anything else in terms of what the substance of the research is going to be,” Sproule said. “I’m not sure if they have a definite plan on where this research is going, but we’ll certainly be watching it.”
The budget also provides a new royalty structure to encourage uranium development, with a view to its potential for nuclear power.
“The budget introduces a modernization of the uranium royalty regime in order to encourage increased investment in northern Saskatchewan,” according to the budget summary.
“We feel that uranium is a very clean, non-emitting source of energy, and that’s why we’re supporting it,” said environment minister Ken Cheveldayoff.
“Cameco does a great job in our province, and also on the aboriginal front, employing aboriginal people, Cameco is a leader in our country, so we’re happy to support the industry as well,” he said.
Increased uranium mining in the north will benefit the province’s aboriginal population through employment and training, said Dave McIlmoyl of northern-based NRT Trucking.
“Nearly 50 per cent of people working at the mines are residents of northern Saskatchewan,” McIlmoyl said.
“They live and work in the north, and anything’s that’s good for the uranium mining industry benefits northern Saskatchewan, so that’s very positive.”