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Senator Pierrette Ringuette calls on the government to ensure the safety, security, and sovereignty of Canada’s nuclear power industry

OTTAWA – Today, Senator Pierrette Ringuette made the following statement in regards to the proposed sale of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd:


Fellow Senators,


I rise in the Senate today to call on the government to ensure the sovereignty, safety, and security of our energy production capabilities by supporting Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.


The CANDU reactor technology is an internationally acclaimed asset that is owned by all Canadians. For over fifty years now, Canadians have invested in their own nuclear future. To date, Canadians have invested nine billion dollars in AECL, with a return of 160 billion in generated GDP benefits, from electricity production to mining to a wide range of medical and professional services.


This is a return of investment of over 1800%. Why would we sell something with such a high rate of return?


The Canadian nuclear industry generates 6.6 billion dollars annually. The industry pays 1.5 billion dollars in taxes to the federal government and 130 million to the provinces. Directly or indirectly, the Canadian nuclear industry creates 71,000 high quality, high paying jobs for Canadians. We cannot afford to lose the “intellectual capital” that provides us with a world-class nuclear workforce.


The Vice-President of the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, Michael Ivanco, said today that, “The sale of AECL will likely lead to the breakup of the CANDU design authority and a loss of the expertise needed to ensure plants run safely and effectively decades into the future.” Do we want to give up this expertise?


We have all been following the story of the plant in Fukushima which was damaged by the Japanese earthquake. The plant is roughly the same age as our CANDU reactors- forty years old. General Electric, the designer of the Fukushima plant still maintains a team of scientists and engineers who are able to respond to this crisis. This is an important lesson for our government to understand. The sale of AECL puts at risk the design, engineering, and safety team that can be called upon in the event of an emergency. We risk losing these key people if AECL is carved up and sold. Keeping our reactors safe and our sovereignty is not a private sector mandate.


We need to maintain our energy sovereignty. We cannot afford to lose a technology which provides 15% of Canada’s power, including 50% in Ontario.


After fifty years of investment and innovation, we cannot be forced to depend on foreign corporations and governments for the technology, safety, and security of a crucial national resource and such a large portion of our energy supply.


Canadians did not want the potash industry to fall into foreign hands. Why would we let the same thing happen with something as important and vital to our security and safety as nuclear power?


We cannot afford to lose the ‘intellectual capital’ that provides us with a world-class nuclear workforce. We need to continue to grow our research capabilities to further our leadership role in providing safe and secure nuclear facilities at home and around the world. Amazingly, there are 34 Canadian CANDU reactors in operation in Canada and around the world.


The Canadian nuclear industry has an amazing safety recording with over 45 years occupational and public health and safety. CANDU reactors are one of the world’s most robust designs and have multiple redundant safety systems to prevent damage in disasters such as earthquakes.


Fellow Senators, instead of trying to sell AECL off like a used car, the government needs to support and endorse the industry like its competitors in France and the United States.”