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SPEA: 10 years later, Canada needs CANDU more than ever. Are we ready?

Nuclear engineers question the state of Candu Energy on the 10th anniversary of SNC-Lavalin’s purchase of Atomic Energy of Canada

October 6, 2021

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario, Oct. 06, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Nearly 10 years after Crown Corporation Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. (AECL) spun off its commercial reactor business to SNC-Lavalin, the Canadian Nuclear industry is poised for unprecedented opportunities. Is SNC Lavalin prepared to take advantage of them? This question is posed by the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA), whose members represent Canada’s nuclear power reactor design expertise.

On October 2nd, 2011, SNC-Lavalin became the exclusive licensee of Canada’s CANDU reactor technology after it purchased AECL’s commercial reactor division in 2011 for $15 million. The transaction was undeniably a boon to SNC-Lavalin, reliably producing double-digit profit margins, allowing the company to grow its nuclear sector through acquisitions and helping keep the company afloat over the last few years as the company navigated financial difficulties.

However, steep layoffs during and after privatization raised concerns about CANDU’s long-term future under SNC-Lavalin’s stewardship. Today, Candu Energy employs roughly half of the workers AECL did prior to privatization – a significant loss to the company’s knowledge base. Despite amassing huge profits from CANDU technology, SNC-Lavalin has demonstrated little commitment to investing in research and development, which is essential to ensuring the viability of this important Canadian resource into the future.

“Around the world, countries are facing significant challenges to their electrical grids as electrical demand increases through the decarbonization of economies. It is essential that new electric generation demands are met without burning new fossil fuels,” explains Mark Chudak, President of SPEA. “Large CANDU reactors can and should play a role in solving our twin climate and energy crises. Our members are ready to meet this challenge, but we need SNC-Lavalin to invest in and grow the necessary expertise.”

CANDU technology was developed through an estimated $30 billion in sustained public investment. Under AECL, CANDU reactors enjoyed a period of rapid growth, with 46 CANDU and CANDU-derived reactors in operation today worldwide. The technology gained widespread acceptance through its innovative design, which uses unenriched uranium to deliver safe, reliable zero-carbon power for more than sixty years. In Canada, CANDU reactors support a supply chain worth $6 billion annually, supporting 74,000 jobs, many of them unionized.

The Government of Canada continues to own CANDU intellectual property. “After ten years with no new builds, we have an unprecedented opportunity to ensure that this publicly-owned Canadian technology helps accomplish our transition to a low-carbon economy,” says Jasjit Rehsia, a SPEA Executive Board member. “On this anniversary, we should double down on our efforts to meet this challenge.”

To ensure the company’s future-readiness, SPEA has commenced an assessment to examine SNC-Lavalin’s stewardship of CANDU intellectual property, the company’s investment into human capital, its progress in the refurbishment and life extension projects for existing reactors as well as its growth plans to ensure CANDU technology plays a role in the decarbonization of our economies, at home and abroad. Any new life extension/new build CANDU project generates a win-win situation for the company, the environment, and the Canadian economy.

The Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA) is an independent union representing engineers, scientists, technicians, technologists, skilled tradespersons, designers, operations and administrative staff employed by SNC-Lavalin. Formed in 1974, SPEA is one of the oldest professional unions in Canada. Collectively we represent the majority of Canada's nuclear power reactor design expertise.

About Us

The Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA) is an independent union representing engineers, scientists, technologists, skilled trades persons and designers, who work for Candu Energy Inc. (formerly Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) Candu division) in Mississauga, Ontario and abroad (excluding AECL Chalk River Laboratories). Formed in 1974, SPEA is one of the oldest professional unions in Canada.
Collectively we represent most of Canada's nuclear power reactor design expertise.

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