Thursday, June 30, 2011

More on the AECL farce

From the smart folks at Enviralment:
Montreal-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin has begrudgingly stepped up to buy the commercial arm of the crown corporation. The firm is no stranger to CANDU technology, having worked closely with AECL in the past, helping to construct and refurbish CANDU reactors. The sale has been in the works for several years, with many bidders stepping up to the plate but ultimately passing on the deal. Earlier this year, in perhaps one final attempt to kill the commercial arm of the company, the federal government slashed nearly 85% its funding, from $696 million in 2010 to $102 million dollars in 2011. Some 900 layoffs are expected in the wake of the sale, including many scientists and engineers. AECL is a huge asset to Canada, currently employing about 5000 people in highly scientific and advanced engineering roles.

The sale to SNC-Lavalin also puts the future of nuclear power in Ontario into doubt. The province had been planning to purchase two new CANDU reactors from AECL for installation at its Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, but that proposition is now full of uncertainty. The Darlington project would have been a huge windfall for AECL, once again making it a viable player in the nuclear reactor business. Instead, the company received years of neglect and disinterest from the feds, followed by a swift kick in the ass out the door.

By selling the crown corporation, the federal government is not only gambling with Canada’s energy security, but it is literally throwing away one of our nation’s most significant scientific endeavours. Naturally the federal government is only too happy to collect the royalties for future use of CANDU technology, but from now on the nuclear business in Canada is somebody else’s problem. Tax payers get the short end of the stick by not seeing a return on their investment, provinces are left holding the bag for much needed new infrastructure, high-tech workers will leave Canada for better opportunities elsewhere, and the private sector is now saddled with something it doesn’t want and may not be able to effectively run. It’s a simple equation: nobody wins when you sacrifice a vital national industry on the altar of cost-cutting.
Well said.