Obviously AECL is going to cost the public lots of money but no private enterprise is going to buy into AECL unless they get a sweet deal. However, that is probably what Harper would dearly love to arrange. If he is really desperate he could always sell to North Korea or Iran! Hopefully Harper will realise the importance of such a key business to the government of Canada and not privatise it.
Workers want AECL to remain Crown firm
Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt announced last May the federal government will restructure the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. and might spin off its reactor business from its research division. (Canadian Press)
Scientists and engineers from the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) were on Parliament Hill on Monday, urging the government to proceed carefully when privatizing the Crown corporation.
"We support restructuring of AECL to allow it to take advantage of growing international opportunities," said Dr. Michael Ivanco, vice-president of the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, the union representing the AECL workers. "However, like most Canadians, we believe that continued government control is imperative."
Earlier this year, Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt announced that AECL's reactor business may be spun off from its research division.
Union president Peter White said his members, who design the next generation of nuclear reactors and repair and refurbish existing ones, aren't opposed to AECL's restructuring per se.
"We just are afraid that if we give up control to a private interest, we may lose control of the technology," White said.
The public shares that sentiment too. Three in four people polled want the AECL to remain under public control, according to an Ipsos Reid study commissioned by the federal government earlier this year.
The survey also suggested that most Canadians don't know much about the AECL. It found nearly 70 per cent of those polled knew little or nothing about AECL.
The agency's reactors used to be responsible for making the medical isotopes used in the diagnosis of cancer and heart ailments.
The Crown corporation hasn't produced any isotopes since its aging reactor at Chalk River, Ont., was shut down in May after it was found to be leaking radioactive water. The company's senior vice-president Bill Pilkington told a House committee Monday that the repairs will cost $70 million.
The Ipsos Reid report, which found nearly three-quarters of those polled thought AECL should not become a private company, had not been publicized until the union discovered it on the website of Library and Archives Canada
Ivanco said it won't help the future of the Crown corporation if bits and pieces of it are sold to private companies.
"Once you start doing that, it's a pretty steep slope to the point where you will no longer be able to design and build, and you could end up in a situation where in 15 years, we need reactors, and we'll have to buy them from someone else," he said.
Raitt defended the AECL's reorganization in a letter that was published by an Ottawa newspaper on Monday, saying the Crown corporation is simply too small to compete on the international stage.
The fate of AECL won't be known until the end of the year.