Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA)

Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA)

June 29, 2011 18:02 ET

Harper Government Abandons Nuclear; Jobs and Industry at Risk

Society of Professional Engineers and Associates Concerned About Future of Canadian Nuclear Program

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 29, 2011) - The federal government's decision to sell Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) to SNC Lavalin will result in a hollowed out company that will guarantee only 1,200 jobs putting at risk approximately 800 others and may cost thousands more jobs in Ontario in the supply chain. It may contribute to a brain drain not seen since the Avro Arrow as engineers, scientists and others evaluate their long term careers with the company" said Michael Ivanco, Vice President of the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA).

The sale of AECL to SNC Lavalin signals the end of any direct federal involvement in Canada's nuclear industry. Canada has a long and proud record of producing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and one of the best safety records.

"We are shocked and angry that the Harper government conducted this sale behind closed doors without any input from the Canadian public or Parliament," Ivanco said. "They jammed legislation through the budget that gave cabinet the right to make decisions instead of Parliament and now we see the results."

The federal government's sale of AECL takes place on the heels of French President Sarkozy's announcement of a planned investment of one billion euros ($1.4 billion) in the French nuclear program. "One could not come up with a more stark contrast in nuclear policy," Ivanco pointed out. "The French government recognizes the economic value of investing in nuclear. The Harper government, on the other hand, is abandoning AECL."

"We are proud of the work that we have done at AECL in designing and producing some of the most advanced nuclear technology in the world," said Ivanco.

"Governments around the world have invested in their nuclear programs because those investments payoff with highly skilled workers, research that supports universities and exports around the world." Nearly 70,000 Canadians are employed in the nuclear industry. Most have university degrees or college diplomas. Thousands have postgraduate degrees.

"AECL's commercial division has been a profitable area for the government for most of its life until the Harper government prevented it from signing contracts in the past couple of years," pointed out Ivanco. "While we welcome SNC Lavalin's investment and their management expertise, we are concerned about the future direction of our industry."

"Nuclear procurement is complicated and expensive," said Ivanco. "Any country looking at building a new nuclear project will want to know that the seller is going to be around in twenty five or fifty years. That's why all national governments of nuclear nations, such as Canada, are closely involved in the industry."

Ivanco went on to say, "Nuclear must remain an important component in our energy mix. More greenhouse gases are released into the earth's environment every year and there is no credible way of reversing this trend that does not include a significant contribution from greenhouse gas emission free nuclear power."

"CANDU technology should have a bright future ahead of it: It has an excellent safety record and can run on recycled fuel as well as thorium. Indeed, a number of countries have expressed interest in CANDU new build. But the government's plan of outright privatization will make it extremely difficult for AECL to secure any reactor sales and this will place CANDU's future - and tens of thousands of high quality jobs - in jeopardy, according to Ivanco.

Ivanco concluded by saying, "The French recognize the strategic importance of their nuclear industry, including the wealth that it provides to their nation and the energy independence. The Canadian government appears to lack this vision. There are many who are concerned that CANDU technology may go the way of the AVRO Arrow. However, we will continue to advocate for a nuclear technology that is a Canadian high-tech success story and that we believe is the best in the world."

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.

Contact Information

  • SPEA External Relations
    Michelle Duncan
    (416) 427-3525 (cellular)
    duncanm@spea.ca