Published On Fri Jan 14 2011
The original bidders for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. have both dropped their offers for the federal nuclear agency, says the union representing scientists and engineers at the company.
“As you may have heard, rumours have been swirling this week that negotiations between the remaining bidder, Bruce Power, and the government have broken down,” says the bulletin.
“We have heard those same rumours from multiple credible sources and consequently we believe them likely true.”
Michael Ivanco, vice-president of the Society of Professionals and Engineers at Atomic Energy of Canada, said he also believes SNC-Lavalin has walked away.
“People around the workplace say they haven’t seen anyone from SNC Lavalin for months,” Ivanco said.
If Bruce Power and SNC-Lavalin have both walked away, only one bid would be left on the table, a proposal being assembled by Toronto businessman Andrew Day.
The federal government said in its budget last year that it intends to sell AECL, and hired N.M. Rothschild & Sons to oversee the process.
The proposed sale prompted concern from the Ontario government, which wants to strike a deal with AECL to build a new nuclear generating plant at Darlington. The nuclear industry and its 30,000 jobs are also centred in Ontario.
A spokesman for Michel Paradis, federal minister of natural resources, said he could not comment “as the process is still going on at this time.”
SNC-Lavalin and Bruce Power also declined comment.
The bulletin to the professional society’s members, who number 1,200 scientists, engineers and technicians, says Canada’s nuclear industry could shrivel is a suitable buyer isn’t found.
“Our fear is that the government may now simply allow AECL to die a ‘death by a thousand cuts,’ or sell off AECL piecemeal, which will amount to the same thing,” it says.
Ivanco said the uncertainty hanging over AECL is making it impossible for the company to put new business on the books.
Romania and Argentina, which have previously bought AECL’s Candu reactors, are interested in building new reactors or refurbishing existing ones, he said. And Ontario wants to build a new Candu at Darlington.
AECL has completed some successful projects in China and Korea, but closer to home projects involving AECL reactors have struggled.
A refurbishment of an AECL reactor at Point Lepreau, New Brunswick, is three years behind schedule and $1 billion over budget.
Bruce Power’s refurbishment of two Candu reactors at the Bruce A nuclear station is $2 billion over its original $2.75 billion budget, and two years behind schedule.
Bruce Power was one of three contenders for AECL.
SNC-Lavalin has also been pursuing the company, as has Toronto businessman Andrew Day, who entered the contest late.
One of the issues at stake is what kind of company AECL would be going forward under new ownership.
Day has said he’s interested in continuing to develop the company’s technology and building new reactors.
He has questioned whether the other companies are committed to taking AECL’s Candu technology forward, or simply supplying maintenance and refurbishment services to existing Candu reactors around the world.
That would be a good business for the next 20 or 30 years, but would ultimately be a sunset enterprise, with no new Candu reactors being built.