SaskPower CEO resigns following investigation into smart meter “catastrophe

SaskPower CEO resigns following investigation into smart meter “catastrophe

by K.T. Weaver, for Take Back Your Power


As reported in late July, following a series of fires throughout Saskatchewan, Canada, “SaskPower ordered to remove all 105,000 smart meters in the province.

On October 27th, the Government of Saskatchewan released the results of a scathing review on the smart meter “debacle” which is now commonly being referred to as a “catastrophe.”  The  report concluded that “customer safety was not given enough priority.”

SaskPower CEO Robert Watson resigned his position immediately following the release of the report on the smart meter program.

Findings from the investigation

According to the government’s review:

“The primary issue of catastrophic meter failures which prompted the AMI program to be halted was not identified as an initial program risk.  When additional information about smart meter fires from other sources came to light, the risk of catastrophic meter failures did not prompt an independent reevaluation of the risk related to Sensus smart meters.”

Additional key findings:

  • Moisture and contaminants getting inside the meters were a major factor in the meter fires.
  • There is no evidence to indicate the fires were the result of improper installation or hot sockets.
  • SaskPower did not adequately consider the potential for significant meter failures resulting in damage to homes.

SaskPower CEO Robert Watson resigns amidst smart meter "catastrophe"

Jack Ritenburg, an electrical engineer and head of Ritenburg & Associates concluded that moisture and contaminants inside the meters was the cause of the smart meter fires.  He also concluded that “water intrusion due to holes in meter boxes, ‘hot socket’ conditions in the meter box and over voltage in the distribution system” or other “external factors” were not the cause of the fires as previously claimed by the manufacturer:

Jack Ritenburg, an electrical engineer and head of Ritengurb and Associates, reports on the suspected causes behind the SaskPower smart meter fires.

According to the independent fire investigation report:

“There was significant precipitation in the previous thirty days for all of the fires. There was significant precipitation in five of the fires within the preceding two days. The remaining three fires had light precipitation within the preceding two days.  There is evidence that moisture and contaminants have been getting into the meters and possibly being trapped.”

“Hot socket issues have been flagged as a possible reason for some of the meter failures. … [W]e feel that a hot socket condition resulting in a destructive meter failure and fire are not likely.”

“Sensus has claimed that some of the smart meter fires were caused by utility over-voltage. … We have not found any evidence to support that a significant over-voltage occurred and resulted in a destructive meter failure.”

The photo below shows electrical arcing inside a smart meter that was taken out of service under the category “Display Error.”  This failure is in the same location as smart meters which suffered a catastrophic failure.

Comparison of Burnt Boards

The following photo (below) shows a meter that was taken out of service by SaskPower that has staining from smoke and evidence of moisture at the bottom of the meter.  This meter had not yet suffered a catastrophic failure.

Sensus Burnt Smart Meter

The fire investigation report concluded with the following statements:

In view of the above, we are of the opinion that moisture and contaminants within the meter has been a major factor in the meter failures and ensuing fires.”

As there is some danger with destructive meter failures and potential resulting fires, we recommend that the existing Sensus Generation 3.3 meters be replaced as soon as possible.  As the existing meter fires have had a close relationship to precipitation levels, SaskPower might wish to consider replacement no later than the end of winter and before the spring thaw and spring rains begin.”

Just to be clear, the fire investigation report reveals that the principal problem is  primarily rain water  (and/or condensation along with other contaminants) that gets into the smart meters themselves, causing arcing across electronic components with eventual catastrophic failure of the meter with a possible explosion or fire.  Furthermore, based upon a review of the investigative report, it is clear we basically have “cheap” meters with a number of design deficiencies which includes uninsulated busbars in close proximity to printed circuit boards and which further allow easy entry of water and dust into the meter enclosures.

Bottom line, … the existing smart meters on people’s homes still present a fire risk in Saskatchewan and elsewhere.  In addition, these types of problems would not occur with traditional analog meters that do not contain fragile electronic components.

Smart meters a catastrophe

As a supplement, this website will quote a portion of an October 28, 2014, article in the Leader-Post entitled SaskPower smart meters a ‘catastrophe’:

“Lest there still be any doubt how badly bungled the SaskPower smart meter debacle was, consider how frequently lawyers, technical specialists and others used the word ‘catastrophic’ in their joint review released Monday.

‘The primary issue of catastrophic meter failures which prompted the AMI (Advanced Meter Infrastructure) program to be halted was not identified as an initial program risk,’ stated the $500,000 Crown Investments Corp. (CIC) report entitled Smart Meter Review.

‘When additional information about smart meter fires from other sources came to light, the risk of catastrophic meter failures did not prompt an independent re-evaluation of the risk related to Sensus smart meters.

An escalation of the risk assessment could have prompted additional investigation, testing and either closer monitoring of installed meters or a pause to the rollout of smart meters until issues were better understood.’

Catastrophic’ in Monday’s report refers to not just the eight fires started by the smart meters, but occasions when things like smoking in the smart meters – largely due to moisture or debris getting inside what should have been a sealed casing – might have easily led to fires.  In all, there were some 359 incidents of meter failure, although the majority were for things like improper readings.

Yet according to the review – [comprised] of three separate reports by Ritenburg and Associates looking into technical issues, Robertson Stromberg commissioned to look at legal matters, and PwC asked to review procurement and contract management – little or no thought was ever given to the inherent risk of catastrophic events.”

About the Author

K.T. Weaver is a health physicist who was employed in the nuclear division of a leading electric utility for over 25 years.  He served in various positions, including Station Health Physicist, Senior Health Physicist, corporate Health Physics Supervisor, and corporate Senior Technical Expert for Radiobiological Effects.  K.T. has earned a B.S. in Engineering Physics and an M.S. in Nuclear Engineering with a specialty in radiation protection.  He also operates the “SkyVision Solutions” website at

Newly-publicized 1994 USAF report: Low-intensity wireless radiation has “profound effect on biological processes”

Newly-publicized 1994 USAF report: Low-intensity wireless radiation has “profound effect on biological processes”


In 1994, the US Air Force published a 32-page report titled: “Radiofrequency/Microwave Radiation Biological Effects and Safety Standards: A Review,” authored by Scott M. Bolen. The supervising agency was Rome Laboratory at Griffiss Air Force Base in New York.

us-air-force-report-rf-microwave-radiation-exposure-tnRead and download the complete 32-page report here:
USAF Report 1994 Biological-Effects (pdf)

In 1994, the US Air Force published a 32-page report titled: “Radiofrequency/Microwave Radiation Biological Effects and Safety Standards: A Review,” authored by Scott M. Bolen. The supervising agency was Rome Laboratory at Griffiss Air Force Base in New York.To this day, many if not most governmental agencies and scientists in North America and abroad maintain the position that RF and microwave radiation are only damaging to the human body at power densities high enough to cause a heating effect (a so-called “thermal effect”), like a microwave oven. The position, while completely unsupported by fact, is very convenient for the multi-billion-dollar telecommunications industry (cell phones, WiFi) as well as the military’s own use of these same technologies—technologies whose radiation is, for the most part nonthermal, in nature.

In fact, the serious bio-toxic consequences of nonthermal RF and microwave radiation have been know for decades by our governments and the military. This 1994 USAF report states on page 2, under the heading of Biological Effects:

“Nonthermal responses can be less noticeable and are often more difficult to explain than thermal effects. These responses are related to the disturbances in the tissue not caused by heating. Electromagnetic fields can interact with the bioelectric functions of the irradiated human tissue. Research conducted in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe suggests that the human body may be more sensitive to the nonthermal effects of RF/MW radiation.”

And from page 18 of the report:

“Nonthermal disruptions have been observed to occur at power densities that are much lower than are necessary to induce thermal effects. Soviet researchers have attributed alterations in the central nervous system and the cardiovascular system to the nonthermal effect of low level RF/MW radiation exposure.”

And from the report’s Conclusion, also on page 18:

“Experimental evidence has shown that exposure to low intensity radiation can have a profound effect on biological processes. The nonthermal effects of RF/MW radiation exposure are becoming important measures of biological interaction with EM field. Modern RF/MW radiation protection guides have sought to account for the effects of low level radiation exposure. Adherence to the ANSI Standard should provide protection against harmful thermal effects and help to minimize the interaction of EM fields with the biological processes of the human body.”

In other words, this USAF report from 1994 all but states that the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Standard of the day was insufficient for protecting the public from the nonthermal effects of RF/MW radiation.

At the time this report was written, that Standard for exposure was set at 50,000 mW/m2 (5 mW/cm2 ) for for frequencies between 1,500 MHz to 100,000 MHz. Today, the maximum exposure limit set by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) for RF radiation in the 850-2400 MHz range (smart meters and other wireless devices) is 10,000 mW/m2However, that level is more than one million times higher than the exposure limits set out in the 2012 BioInitiative Report. The BioInitiative Report caps exposure to RF radiation at 0.006 mW/m2 .

The point being: the “safe” levels for RF/MW exposure that are laid out in this 1994 USAF report, as well as in current “safe” levels stipulated by North American governments (such as Canada’s Safety Code 6 and the FCC in the US) only address thermal effects of RF/MW radiation and have no bearing whatsoever on the far more serious nonthermal effects that unequivocally exist. The public is simply not being protected.