Saskatchewan has already embarked on uranium mining. Now our government is proposing a nuclear reactor, which will place the province squarely on the nuclear road.

The implications do not appear well thought out.

Saskatchewan does not need the amount of power an industrial nuclear reactor will produce. So is this major step justified? I believe the costs are too high.

Saskatchewan has other options to access additional power.

Incredible as it may seem, Canada does not yet have an east-west electricity grid that connects our provinces, something prime minister John Diefenbaker proposed 50 years ago. Instead, most provincial electrical utilities have tied themselves more tightly to the U.S. states than to their neighbouring provinces.

During the 2003 blackout in Ontario, the lights were on in Quebec, but Ontario didn't have the link needed to access its neighbour's power. It had to buy expensive and dirty coal-fired electricity from the U.S.

Saskatchewan could take the lead in promoting a national east-west grid, which would give all Canadians a sense of energy security. A simple high-voltage line allows Saskatchewan to purchase extra power when needed from Manitoba's existing hydro facilities, without incurring the high cost of building a nuclear station.

A second option involves alternative sources of energy.

Germany is phasing out its nuclear reactors and developing wind and solar generation. In eight years it installed 22,000 megawatts of wind power -- more than Canada's entire nuclear capacity -- and has approved an additional 24,000 megawatts.

Saskatchewan has more wind and solar resources than most places, including Germany, but has done little to develop these indefinitely sustainable sources that don't have the problems of nuclear energy.

Developing solar and wind capacity, access to neighbouring Manitoba's ample hydro power and a sensible conservation plan could look after our needs.

A crucial, unsolved problem with atomic power is its highly toxic, radioactive waste. For decades, until this practice was publicly exposed by Greenpeace, nuclear waste was routinely dumped into the ocean.

Then proposals were made to use rockets to shoot nuclear waste into space. The obvious danger and public opposition killed the plan.

The idea currently favoured is to bury the waste in solid rock formations. Manitoba spent many years studying and experimenting with deep rock disposal. It concluded that no matter how solid the rock, water moves through it.

The "spent fuel" generated by nuclear reactors is millions of times more radioactive than the uranium fuel going in, and this waste remains lethal for more than a million years. Any container that holds it will leak long before that time, releasing the buried waste irretrievably into the environment, leaving a deadly legacy for eternity.

Manitoba has banned the burial of nuclear waste. Quebec says there is no way it will happen there. Virtually every U.S. state has also said no to a nuclear waste site.

For two decades, the U.S. government has planned to bury nuclear waste in Nevada's Yucca Mountain. More than $13 billion has been spent on this site, but, responding to growing opposition, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently pronounced the project dead.

There are now more than 100 U.S. reactor sites looking for a place to get rid of their waste. If Saskatchewan builds a reactor, it too will need to deal with the waste. Pressure will increase for a disposal site in our province.

If Saskatchewan agrees to construct such a site, nuclear stations, Canadian and American, will be anxious to send us their waste. This isn't a future most of us want for our province.

Canada, i.e. Saskatchewan, is the largest supplier of uranium to the U.S. One byproduct, when refined there, is depleted uranium. The U.S. military has used hundreds of tonnes of radioactive depleted uranium munitions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia.

Upon impact, DU-hardened missiles burst into flames and vaporize. Inhaled DU smoke is an agonizing death sentence for many, as the escalating cancer rates in the countries mentioned have shown.

The subject of DU weaponry has been a virtually taboo topic in Canada, but we cannot pretend our uranium is not responsible for massive suffering that will go on for generations. This is an ethical and moral question facing us as a province.

Decades ago, B.C. imposed a moratorium on uranium mining and exploration. Nova Scotia followed. New Brunswick's Opposition leader has repeatedly called for a ban in that province, because of "the risk associated to public health."

During the debate over the proposed Warman uranium refinery in the early 1980s, prominent Cree leader Senator John B. Tootoosis spoke eloquently about the power of uranium, which, he said, had been placed in the ground by our Creator and which, he told us, should never be disturbed.

I believe we should heed Senator Tootoosis's warning.

David Orchard is a fourth generation farmer and politician, who farms organically at Borden and Choiceland, SK. He is the author of The Fight for Canada — Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism and can be reached at tel 306-652-7095,