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.