Forget about AECL privatization, for now: federal cash means reactor maker will stay Canada-owned

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty put to rest rumours about AECL’s impending privatization yesterday when he announced his government will follow the Auditor General’s advice and put up $300 million to help the CANDU manufacturer finish critical work on its Generation III reactor.

Good move. The CANDU has too much potential in the dawning closed-fuel-cycle world to be unloaded at a fire-sale price, something its many detractors have urged. Nuclear power is Canada’s technological route to massive greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions. The feds’ help for AECL is another nudge to the Ontario government to quit pretending it is seriously considering buying light-water reactors—i.e., in the prime minister’s words, to fish or cut bait. Ontario is the scene of North America’s most dramatic GHG reduction since we signed Kyoto; this was because of the return of four nuclear units after 2003.

Flaherty’s other environmental move, pledging $250 million for yet another study into carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), was not so good. CCS, as I pointed out on February 6, is more PR than anything else. Flaherty’s PR did not mollify his intended audience, the mainstream green lobby.

Still, one out of two ain’t bad. And the bigger money went to the better project.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
15 years ago

I know that GHG reduction is the key hook in the public relations campaign for new nuclear power. OK – if it works why should I knock it? But it really is ridiculous. Canada could light all its tire dumps on fire, ignite every coal seam as a new underground disaster, burn down all its buildings, and get everyone to smoke cigs till we throw up, and it would not make a decimal point change in the world GHG emission rate. So it really is irrational to make major technology shifts in our economy for reasons that are not based on facts. The fools are leading the blind in this parade.

What we do know is that the big players have to change (or die). That means work needs to be done – that means business opportunities. AECL is poised to make a good profit in this nuclear renaissance, so investing in AECL only makes good sense as a business initiative. Ooops – investing in AECL is illegal. Well, isnt that cute. Our best hope for new job creation cant be helped by our rich citizens. I guess the only shareholder allowed to make such an investment will have to step up, and be forced to get rich as a result. So the Feds are finally going to invest in AECL. Still, I get the feeling that they dont know why they are doing this. Maybe if they read this blog a bit more they would start to catch on.

Apparently the tussle with Linda Keen extends back a long way, and is connected to this issue. As long as she had anything to do with it, AECL was not going to advance its nuclear business. Canadians would be safer without nuclear power, thanks to Keen. The Feds have been looking for a way to get around her for quite a while. This story would make a great TV mini-series.

So sure, investing in AECL makes sense, and the resulting profits and jobs are good for us all. But the GHG reductions we want are in China and the USA, not Canada.

Steve Aplin
15 years ago

Randal, I know that Ontario’s 15 million tonnes are just a drop in the global bucket. But 15 million tonnes is 15 million tonnes. The flip side is that there was no downside to the reduction: Ontario cranked out more power in 2006 than in 2003, and did it cheaply. Nobody did without.

This should be held as an example to other countries. Germany, for example, where there’s a new push to overturn the idiotic proscription against nuclear and coal.

15 years ago

If there’s a proscription against coal in Germany, its stopping power is nowhere near a Berlin Wall; it’s more like Dresden lace.

There’s a glimmer of hope that reality may be dawning on Germany with regard to nuclear though. Hopefully the UK decision will reinforce the mysteriously invisible success of the French to convince most of Europe to wake up from their anti-nuclear dream.