Once the apex of the Canadian nuclear lobby, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) seems to be losing friends in droves. I received the program for the Canadian nuclear lobby's annual conference in Ottawa yesterday. Conspicuously absent from the conference's list of sponsors was AECL. Who filled AECL's traditional role as the top dog of the Canadian nuclear industry? AREVA - the French nuclear company seeking to build its EPR reactor in Ontario. Worse still for AECL, the Toronto Star reported this morning that Canadian unions are moving away from their historic loyalty to AECL and have said they'd be just as happy to build a French reactor.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Press reported this morning that the Harper government gave AECL $135 million in last week's budget to finish the design of its prototype Advanced Candu Reactor (ACR), the same reactor it hopes to sell to Ontario. That's a large sum of money given AECL CEO Hugh MacDiarmid told the Globe and Mail last November that the design was pretty much done and AECL began designing the reactor in 2000.
With Ontario set to choose whether it wants to build an unfinished Canadian reactor or the completed French design this Spring, it seems even AECL’s former friends are hedging their bets. Ontario, of course, would be smart to choose neither. Electricity demand has fallen while the cost of building new reactors is increasing while the cost of renewables is declining.