December 17, 2009
OTTAWA – The federal government is formally inviting offers as it seeks to privatize the nuclear reactor division of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.
In announcing the request for "investor proposals," Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt said the goal is to boost AECL's global presence while reducing the financial risk carried by taxpayers.
The research-and-technology division of the Crown corporation, including the Chalk River laboratories and its troubled medical isotope production, are not part of the government sale.
A National Bank study commissioned by the Conservative government determined there is "significant private sector interest" in a stand-alone CANDU reactor business.
However the government may have undercut its own bargaining position when Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief spokesman described AECL as a "dysfunctional" $30-billion "sink-hole" last June.
That same month, the Ontario government put off a decision on new reactor construction after deciding all the bids – including one for an untried, next-generation AECL reactor – were too costly.