The March 11, 2011 disaster had a profound effect on Saskatchewan’s uranium industry. No one expected the difficult times would last so long.
Leigh Curyer was about to board a flight home to Australia when he heard the news. For Tim Gitzel, it came during a meeting with his company’s senior executives.
Jim Corman was across town in his own office, planning a development project in Nunavut. It was March 11, 2011, and disaster had struck Japan. It was a catastrophe of epic proportions that — beyond the immense loss of life and humanitarian toll — would directly affect Saskatchewan for years to come.
At the time, few in the province’s uranium industry sensed how bad it would be, or for how long. “I don’t think anyone really estimated that every reactor (in Japan), all 54, would be shut down, and they’d be down for a number of years,” recalled Gitzel, who was at the time months away from becoming Cameco Corp.’s CEO.
“It wasn’t immediately obvious to us that it was going to be the significant issue that it turned out to be,” agreed Corman, who now runs Orano Canada Inc., but was then serving as its vice president of operations.
“The level of the accident at that time, certainly (I) had not contemplated, that’s for sure,” added Curyer, who was months away from founding the uranium development company NexGen Energy Ltd.