AECL selloff poses ‘unknown risks’ 

The Conservative government’s decision to sell off its nuclear agency may put Canada and other countries at risk, the association representing its engineers and scientists warned Monday.

In response to fears of a nuclear catastrophe triggered by damage to Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant, the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates says the breakup of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., likely would result in the loss of expertise needed to safely operate Candu nuclear reactors in the future. “The sale of AECL poses unknown risks for the Candu fleet of nuclear power plants, as the company is likely to lose highly skilled staff,” SPEA vice-president Michael Ivanco said in a statement.

“The federal government must ensure that, when it is time to implement the lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, there are people still working at AECL competent to implement those design fixes.”

In 2009, the Conservative government said it would split the Crown corporation in two, selling off the division that builds and markets the Candu reactors. The electricity-producing reactors are in operation in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, and have been exported to South Korea, China, India, Argentina, Romania, and Pakistan.

The SPEA said the government should wait to see the results of any investigation into the Fukushima Daiichi incident before making up its mind on selling the agency’s reactor division.

Meanwhile, The Parti Québécois would shut down Quebec’s only nuclear power plant if the party forms the next government, Drummond PQ MNA Yves-François Blanchet said Monday.

And if the planned $2-billion refurbishment of the nuclear plant in Bécancour was already under way, the PQ would stop it, he added.

Blanchet made the comments at a news conference in Montreal where a coalition of environmental and health groups, as well as academics and artists, called on Liberal Premier Jean Charest to shut down the Gentilly 2 plant.