Ontario’s Nuclear Workers have Nothing to Fear

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.




Posted in Policy. 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “Ontario’s Nuclear Workers have Nothing to Fear”

  1. Don Jones Says:

    If Canadian nuclear designers end up working for AREVA or Westinghouse they had better be ready to go to France or the US if they want to get in on leading edge design. Otherwise stay in Canada and learn how to use the copying machine. Selling out 60 years of CANDU technology would be unconscionable.

  2. Ken Dormuth Says:

    The current economic situation, with projected large deficits for both the Canadian and Ontario budgets, makes it more important than ever that the taxpayer risk of the new reactor project be minimized. There would not appear to be much debate that the project in Ontario, if based on any of the advanced reactor types, would have a substantial risk of exceeding estimated costs, largely at taxpayers’ expense, because of lack of experience in construction and operation. Selection of the ACR-1000 would likely put more risk on the taxpayer, because it would be supplied by a federally-owned corporation. Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem. Reinstatement of the Enhanced CANDU-6 option ( see http://www.reactorscanada.com/?p=22#more-22 ) would provide a lower-risk project while continuing to support Canadian technology and allowing a more gradual and careful introduction of advanced reactors to Canada.

  3. Steve Aplin Says:

    If we’re going into deficit to stimulate spending and jobs growth in Canada, and if the Ontario reactor project is going over-budget anyway, then why should Canadian taxpayers backstop a loan to a foreign manufacturer? Besides, what’s more important, avoiding a deficit or creating high-paid, highly skilled Canadian jobs? This isn’t some unproductive financial sinkhole. When the project is complete we’ll have two reactors cranking out power—and earning revenue—day and night.

    I’m with Don. Canada has committed 60 years to CANDU, and it has paid off in spades. Plus it has a shining future as a proliferation-resistant way to burn spent U.S. fuel.

  4. Dr. Singh Says:

    In the population boom of the 1950’s and 60’s, Quebec and Ontario took vastly different paths. Quebec has huge rivers up north that were harnessed with massive concrete dams, many right up there in world’s top 10. Ontario, flat as pancake with only Niagara and St Lawrence, was ideal test bed for CANDU.

    But, in retrospect, like the British, Canada developed nuclear technology too “conservatively”. If I recall correctly R&D started post war with ZEEP, NRX in 47, infamous NRU in 57 and demo plant in Rolphton in 62 with first real commercial operation at Douglas Point in 68. By that time I assume that heavy water reactors were well understood.

    But, unlike ANY other country in the world, Canada builds nuclear in sets of 4. Don’t you think it would be painfully obvious in 71 when first Pickering reactors started that the initial design was “lacking”. Just a couple years later the bigger Bruce A reactors arrived, although still not perfected with reliability problems. Ofcourse AECL always touts the excellent performance of the “block B” reactors – the simpler, more efficient, easier to maintain, more reliable Bruce B and Darlington.

    But, for the life in me, I dont understand why AECL built not 1 but 8 early “A” models which would inevitably have flaws. Or how it took Canada, a pioneer of nuclear technology, 25 years of 5 test/demo reactors before Pickering. And unlike all the other countries, especially USA, where nuclear vendors were pushing “economies of scale” and thus larger reactors, why was Canada the sole exemption – after starting Bruce A and while working on Bruce B, the smaller Pickering B was undertaken in the 80’s.

    By ’97 Pickering A and Bruce A were shutdown due to appalling capacity factor and ridiculous ignorance towards safety. Ontario was probably the only place in the world with more than a couple reactors, yet none of them 1000MW. Most countries had already retired their <600MW units. By then, Pickering had already suffered numerous LOC (tube rupture) and billion dollar repairs. Yet a few years later, despite being woefully out of date, worst performing of the lot, and least safe of all, Ontario elected to refurbish a couple Pickering A units for a meager life extension.

    Now, at a time when many US reactors are being uprated beyond original spec, and many extended to run full 60 years without multi-billion dollar re-tubing, desperate AECL is blackmailing Ontario manufacturing, by saying it will collapse without new order and it has the best record in the world – the CANDU6s built outside of Canada. The selective choice which CANDU’s are included in the AVG is also despicable – since improvements in late 90’s all 100+ US reactors have 90%+ avg – something unheard of for CANDU “A”s.

    Finally, in regards to ACR1000 – although Ontario HAS historically been the Guinea Pig for the last 50 years, exporting perfected designs after we’ve endured their problems, for once I think we should rely on outsiders with better track records (than 2 MAPLE reactors that after being overbudget wont be allowed to operate).

    IMHO the perfect choice for Ontario now is to build a couple ABWR (proven track record in Japan and due to start in 09 in Taiwan) and close down Pickering (combine ~2700MW matches ~3200MW of Pickering today).

    Long term – Liquid Fluoride Thermal Reactor, Fusion, “paint-on” solar, geothermic power from pumping CO2 from gas plants down into hot rock. etc..

  5. M. Vartolomei Says:

    It’s too bad that some people constantly think that neighbours’ grass is greener.
    Today, CANDUs around the world outperform the competition. FYI, the world record for the longest nonstop operation was Pickering 7 with 894 days, in 1994. Wolsong 4 (Korea) has achieved a lifetime performance of 97.3%.
    Oh, and BTW, Wolsong 1 has a lifetime performance of 85.7%, Wolsong 2 of 94.2%! Kudos to CANDU “A”s.

    As for fusion and other non-existing or non-proven technologies, though everyone wishes they existed, it’s all, unfortunately, wishful thinking at this point.

  6. Dr Singh Says:

    And how in anyway whatsoever is the capacity factor of Pickering 7 “B”, Wolsong4 (Candu6) or the others relevant to the consistently low performance of Pickering A?

    As an example:
    You do realize they are different designs, and even if they were identical (as in my Ford Focus, vs your Ford Focus), you still need to look at the individual units seperately. Because your Focus survived 350Km, I’m crazy for being upset, slandering Focus for chronically breaking transmission, suspension, engine etc..

  7. Sami Says:

    I know it is an older post, but I feel there is a need to comment on M. Vartolomei ‘s comments above. First the length of time continuously operating (894 days around 1994) is not a clean indicator of performance. NDP government in Ontario at that time froze the KW-h price for close to five years, Darilngton started up with no increase in the price of power as planned, accordingly all OH units planned maintenance activities were put on the shelves. The price of this fake performance was paid afterward when we invited ” American Experts !!!” to tell us what was wrong with our units. CANDU units will perform well (outside politics interventions) . If a unit runs continously between 1-2 years , that is great, delaying maintenance in order not to shutdown is not a wise or worth taking credit for

  8. Don Jones Says:

    Even if the Pickering unit 7 performance was a one off it did show the potential of a reactor with on power refuelling. This potential will hopefully be realized at Darlington, a much improved design, which has recently gone to a three year outage schedule, and with the ACR 1000 which is designed for three years of operation before taking a three week maintenance outage. It will be interesting to see how close we get to meeting these goals. I do not know the operating schedules of the CANDU 6 off shore units or of the standardized Indian 220 MW and 540 MW units but they seem to be operating quite well, despite recent fuel shortages in India

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