Canada's national nuclear company is to be given a new mandate and structure, the country's government said today. Private companies are thought likely to take major involvement in AECL's research and laboratories.
|AECL's latest build project, two
Candu-6 units at Qinshan, China
Natural resources minister Lisa Raitt said: "The ultimate objective of this restructuring is to leverage Canada's long-term investment in nuclear energy and strengthen Canada's nuclear industry at a time of global expansion."
Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) supplies large pressurized heavy-water reactors which are used in Argentina, China and Romania as well as at home in Canada. The designs it offers, the Candu-6 and Advanced Candu Reactor (ACR-1000), are thought likely to gain orders in the near term for deployment in the provinces of Ontario and Alberta.
The decision comes after a review that began in November 2007 and concluded that AECL's "current mandate and structure limit the corporation's success and development," after noting "its status prevents AECL from accessing capital markets and making equity investments" and that its mandate is widened by public policy roles in isotope production and waste managment.
The government's announcement did not reveal any of the details of the restructuring and only hinted at private sector involvement: "[The review] found private sector interest in new models or in new partnerships to manage the Research and Technology Division, including the Chalk River laboratories," and later, "The Candu Reactor Division is too small to establish a strong presence globally in the high-growth markets that are a key to its success."
AECL has assembled a group of major contractors with experience of Candu technology which combine to take on major maintenance and build tasks. The members of 'Team Candu', which would naturally take great interest in the forthcoming process, are SNC-Lavalin Nuclear, GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Babcock & Wilcox Canada, and Hitachi Canada.
AECL is supported to a certain extent by government funds. Canada's 2009 budget included a sum of C$351 million ($315 million) for AECL to develop the ACR-1000 design and maintain operations at Chalk River, where the NRU research reactor produces a major portion of the world's isotopes for nuclear medicine.
NM Rothschild and Sons is to develop the restructuring plan for the Ministry of Natural Resources.