Ottawa to sell reactor business

The Harper government plans to put Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.’s nuclear reactor business up for sale.

The Harper government plans to put Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.’s nuclear reactor business up for sale. It’s part of a major restructuring that will also mean private-sector management for AECL’s Chalk River research facility, which makes the medical isotopes used in diagnostic scans. Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt said Thursday that AECL is being put on the block in response to a National Bank report commissioned to examine whether all or part of the Crown company should be privatized. A summary of the bank’s report, prepared by the Natural Resources Department, says AECL’s reactor business should be spun off from its research division. The department’s summary says while National Bank found “significant private sector interest” in AECL’s reactor business, few companies wanted to buy the aging Chalk River facility, though there were firms interested in running it. The government accepted the recommendations. “We are now moving forward with restructuring the corporation,” Raitt said. Investment bank N.M. Rothschild & Sons has been hired to come up with a restructuring plan and give financial advice. Ottawa has also brought on David Leith, the former deputy chairman of CIBC World Markets, as an adviser. “We anticipate that the bulk of the work will be taken over the summer for Rothschild and for Mr. Leith, and that we’ll be having reports coming in to us some time in the fall,” Raitt said. Opposition MPs were quick to pounce on the government’s move to split up and sell off AECL. Earlier Thursday, government officials told reporters there won’t be limits on how much of AECL will be sold, and it will be for the buyers to decide what to do with the heavily subsidized Candu reactors.

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