Published On Thu Nov 18 2010
A proposal by Toronto businessman Andrew Day to buy part of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. isn’t practical, says the union representing scientists, engineers and technicians
Day wants to buy Atomic Energy’s business of building new reactors. He does not propose to get into the business of maintaining and servicing existing reactors.
But Michael Ivanco, vice president of the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, says splitting AECL’s business into two segments isn’t that simple.
“We don’t work that way,” said Ivanco, who works at AECL’s facility in Mississauga.
Many designers are working on several projects at once, and they don’t fall exclusively into the either the realm of new design, or into service and maintenance, he said.
“There’s not compartmentalized work,” he said. “It’s very much an integrated organization where you can’t just carve out 200 people and move them over in another building and have them work on just one thing.”
For example, he said, AECL has a large group that assesses reactor safety.
They work on maintaining safety at operating reactors, but they’re also involved in ensuring that new designs will operate safely, he said.
Ivanco said the society has met with Day and some of his backers.
“They’re well intentioned,” he said. “But I just can’t imagine this sort of thing working.”
Ivanco said that if an aircraft develops a safety problem that leads to a serious accident, engineers and technicians from all over the company are conscripted to solve it.
“We work the same way. If there’s a problem with a reactor, the regulator comes to us and says: You guys have to demonstrate to us that you can fix this problem, or we’re going to shut this reactor down.”
Everyone pitches in to work on the emergency, he said.
“If you monkey around with this group, and start sub-dividing them into packages, you lose that ability.”
“It has a huge implication not only for new-build design, but for existing reactors that are operating.”
His union suggested to Day that he should talk to Bruce Power, which has proposed taking over the service and maintenance side of AECL’s business.
“We suggested he partner up. Maybe they can strengthen one another,” he said.
Ivanco’s union has 1,200 member, most based in Mississauga. Others are in Montreal, Korea and New Brunswick.
The federal government has not made any decision about the future of AECL. It has hired N.M. Rothschild and Sons Ltd. to handle the sale.Bruce Power and SNC-Lavalin have put in bids for the maintenance and service end of AECL’s business