Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Told That Sale of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) May Pose Safety Risks Says Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA)

 

MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 1, 2011) - In testimony before the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearings into the Darlington nuclear facility, Dr. Michael Ivanco, Scientist and Vice-President of the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA) told the commission, "The sale of AECL will almost certainly lead to the breakup of the CANDU design authority and a loss of expertise needed to ensure plants run safely and effectively decades into the future."

 

The Japanese operator of the damaged nuclear power plants, TEPCO - turned to the original designers of their reactor, General Electric, to help them manage the crisis because they know the boiling water reactor design the best. It is GE's design. Similarly, SPEA members know Canada's CANDU design the best.

 

"A sale could easily result in AECL being carved up in pieces, which would put at risk the design, engineering and safety team that can be called upon in the event of an emergency," Ivanco pointed out. "Our members believe that we design the safest reactors in the world. Indeed, we believe - based on the limited detail available about the sequence of events at the Fukushima plant - the same problems would likely not have occurred at a CANDU plant."

 

SPEA reminded the commission that the forty-year-old power plant in Fukushima is roughly the same age as some Canadian CANDU units. The designer (GE) still maintains a team of scientists and engineers who were able to respond to this crisis. This is a significant point for the CNSC to note.

 

"The safety of Canadians is paramount. It is not in the public interest to allow a sale of AECL if there is a risk that the design authority is weakened or broken apart," said Ivanco. "There are still lessons to be learned from the Fukushima situation. If AECL is broken up, who will be there to implement the recommendations?"

 

SPEA called on the CNSC to report to the federal government that the privatization of AECL may put the safe operation of CANDU plants over the long term at risk.

 

The Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA) represents engineers, scientists, technologists and tradespeople who work for Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) in Mississauga, Ontario and abroad (excluding Chalk River Laboratories). SPEA members collectively represent the majority of Canada's nuclear power design expertise.