New direction for Canadian nuclear labs

05 March 2013

Canadian nuclear companies have welcomed plans for private sector involvement in the management of national nuclear laboratories in the latest phase of the restructuring of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL).

Joe Oliver at CNA (NRCan)_200
Minister Joe Oliver announces the restructuring (Image: NRCan)

The management of AECL's nuclear laboratories will be restructured through a competitive procurement process to be held over the coming months, natural resources minister Joe Oliver announced at the Canadian Nuclear Association's annual conference in Toronto. The Canadian government wants to implement a government-owned, contractor-operated model to manage the laboratories in a similar way to such activities in the UK and USA.

AECL's nuclear laboratories division is mainly focused on Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario, home to the NRU reactor which produces a major share of the world's supply of the molybdenum-99 and cobalt-60 used in medical procedures. It also includes Whiteshell Laboratories in Manitoba, which are now being decommissioned.

Under the new management model, the laboratories will focus on three key objectives of managing the radioactive waste and decommissioning activities arising from over 60 years of nuclear research and development; providing nuclear science and technology capabilities to support federal responsibilities; and providing access to in-depth nuclear science and technology facilities and expertise for Canada's nuclear industry on a commercial basis.

AECL will conduct its normal business throughout the restructuring process, while the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) will continue to regulate the laboratories.

Oliver said that restructuring the management of the laboratories would bring in private sector "rigour and efficiency," providing Canada with a results-focused and cost-effective world-class research and technology organization.

The move was welcomed by Canadian nuclear industry players and representatives, with the Canadian Nuclear Association, Ontario Power Generation, Bruce Power and SNC-Lavalin all releasing statements supporting the minister's announcement.

The Canadian government decided in 2009 that AECL should be restructured in a two-stage process. The first stage of the restructuring saw the sale of AECL's former Candu Reactor Division to SNC-Lavalin subsidiary Candu Energy Inc in 2011.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News