Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Plan for AECL: Private Profit, Public Liability

Those of us following the Chalk river / AECL saga have been anxiously awaiting a report from the National Bank of Canada regarding the crown corporation's disposition.

Actually, 'anxiously' might be an overstatement, since the report's recommendations were pretty much a foregone conclusion.

Ottawa urged to sell controlling interest in AECL

TORONTO, OTTAWA — The federal government should relinquish control of its flagship nuclear energy company but retain its problem-plagued Chalk River research facility, says a report commissioned by Ottawa.

The report by National Bank of Canada recommends that the federal government sell off at least a 51-per-cent interest in Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s commercial operations, according to sources who have been briefed on its contents.

Ottawa has refused to divulge the report's recommendations and has left the fate of AECL in limbo until the Ontario government decides whether to buy the Crown corporation's Candu technology or opt for its main rival, France's Areva Group.

...But even if AECL succeeds in winning the bid, the federal government, which has been heavily subsidizing the business since the 1950s, plans to restructure the company to make it more competitive.

The National Bank report recommends the government break up AECL, sources confirmed yesterday. The commercial venture, with new investors as majority owners, would handle reactor sales and service, while the government would retain ownership of the research and technology division, which runs AECL's Chalk River laboratories and the NRU reactor.

... National Bank recommends that the Chalk River site be excluded because AECL – and its government shareholder – face liabilities totalling about $7-billion to clean up waste at the Chalk River site.

“No company would want to buy that,”
said Greenpeace energy campaigner and nuclear opponent Shawn-Patrick Stensil.

In other words, they're selling the store and keeping the dumpster out back.

I shouldn't be surprised, though. This is exactly what the government wanted to hear. When you don't believe in public ownership, it's easy to find ways to make public assets unprofitable so you can justify selling them off to your corporate buddies - and then call it being 'competitive'.

Welcome to Canada's new Free Market Nuclear Industry.

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