It’s been reported that on February 21 about 100 boxes of bid documents for the great Ontario reactor circus were submitted by the reactor vendors. They were boxes of paper but in the present economic and political climate they may as well be boxes of bricks or radiator parts since the decision must reflect the current realities.
Ontario’s cohort of highly qualified nuclear scientists and engineers are the pawns in this process and no doubt it’s causing them anxiety. Having been through uncertainty about the future a few times myself I can well appreciate their feelings. The situation isn’t helped by the sucking and blowing of nuclear industry Pooh-Bahs doing the Chicken Little routine about how the sky will fall if AECL doesn’t win. It may be that their own jobs would be in jeopardy in that event but not the jobs of those with technical expertise.
Political reality says the AECL ACR is likely to win. No matter how long they continue to drag their feet on the decision, as the recession deepens it’s increasingly difficult for the Ontario government to do anything other than accept the bid of the local guys. The politicians can’t afford to get in the same sort box that the government lottery company got into by selecting Mercedes Benz cars as prizes at a time when the car industry is in such great trouble in Ontario. Selecting the ACR also puts off the expenditure of real money by the provincial government until at least 2012 when the details of the ACR will be firmed up. In the meantime the feds will be funding the completion of the design. Even better, the current provincial government would likely be out of office and another government would have to deal with any downstream consequences of this choice.
Suppose the ACR doesn’t win. At “worst” our nuclear people might end up working for one or the other of two world-class multinational nuclear companies: AREVA or Westinghouse. Both already have several orders for their reactors in other countries. It’s easy to see where the winning company would get the nuclear people they need to build their reactors in Canada. Of course, the inevitable next step for the winner would be to buy the assets of AECL, the main one being its highly skilled work force. Current employees would likely end up with higher pay, better leadership and literally a world of opportunity from which to choose their future.
Skilled nuclear workers have nothing to fear. The very fact that two reactors of some type will be built in Ontario and maybe others elsewhere in the country is sufficient to ensure their future for decades to come. This even without taking into account the 10’s of billions of dollars worth of refurbishment work slated for the existing CANDU reactors. There is no need to be concerned. The employment future is bright for Ontario’s nuclear workers whatever the outcome of the competition.