Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Not Just Medicine

By D'Arcy Hande, The StarPhoenix

When under scrutiny, the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation and its CEO Neil Alexander like to put on their suits of shining armour as the champions of nuclear medicine.

So Alexander's letter (Appropriate work, March 26) comes as no surprise. But in a StarPhoenix interview in December, he had on his more business-like jousting suit and proclaimed how SFCCNI's research could facilitate building small nuclear reactors for deployment in Saskatchewan. The core funding of $30 million for the centre at its inception in 2011 came from the Saskatchewan government. The centre's original business framework stated: "The province expects nuclear power to be considered in the range of energy options available for baseload generation capacity in the medium and long term after 2020 and that the CCNI will be able to serve as a source of expertise to inform decisions in this area."

More than half the Fedoruk Centre's board of directors has connections to the uranium and nuclear industry.

Alexander states that the centre "has no role in the mining or sale of uranium." However, research and development for the nuclear industry is a different story. A check of projects approved for funding by SFCCNI over the past three years demonstrates that there is inevitably money granted toward research on nuclear reactors and aspects of uranium mining.

Obviously the Uranium Development Partnership agenda of 2009 is still alive and well at the University of Saskatchewan's Fedoruk Centre.

D'Arcy Hande

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Re: Deadly Legacy

“Appropriate Work”
By Neil Alexander, The Starphoenix March 25, 2015

Re: Deadly legacy (SP, March 20). Bryan Lee's disappointment with the Saskatchewan government funding of the Fedoruk Centre appears to be rooted in a misunderstanding of the centre's activities. To date, the bulk of the centre's investment has been in using nuclear imaging techniques to develop a better understanding of cancers and other diseases in humans, animals and plants. This complements the work of the province's universities, the cancer agency and other advanced research centres.

 I invite Lee to visit the new cyclotron facility to talk with the researchers about the work they will do and the lives they believe they will save. The centre also supports social and environmental studies regarding nuclear development, such as how to have fact-based discussions on complex scientific topics, as well as research into nuclear energy, safety and materials science using neutron beams. This work is entirely appropriate for institutions of higher learning. Words used by Lee, such as "toxic" and "lethal" perpetuate fear and misunderstanding, which can lead to poor public decision-making. This is an issue that concerns me and I will be talking about it in the Tox on Tap series at the Woods Alehouse on April 28.

While the Fedoruk Centre has no role in the mining or sale of uranium, as a scientist concerned about the environment, I am well aware of the contribution nuclear science has made to greenhouse gas avoidance and the slowing of the onset of climate change - the biggest environmental challenge that faces our planet today.

Neil Alexander
Executive director, Fedoruk Centre Saskatoon