Canada likely to split up nuclear agency: minister

Fri Sep 11, 2009 12:48pm EDT
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By Scott Anderson

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada will likely split its government-owned nuclear technology corporation into two separate units, the natural resources minister said on Friday, as Ottawa looks for ways to revamp the 50-year-old Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.

The federal government has engaged investment bankers N.M. Rothschild & Sons to develop a restructuring plan for AECL, and is scheduled to report back to Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt in the fall. David Leith, formerly of CIBC World Markets, will also advise the minister and work with Rothschild.

The two are looking at the best way to overhaul AECL's operations, which include its Candu nuclear reactor division and its research division, which includes the beleaguered Chalk River facility, which makes much of the world's medical isotope supply.

But Raitt indicated on Friday she is leaning toward the breakup of the two units.

"It's quite likely. When we outlined restructuring plans in May of this year, we indicated that that's where we are looking at. AECL needs to focus on the one aspect of their commercial side, the selling of nuclear reactors. But equally important is the Chalk River labs side," she told reporters following a speech in Toronto.

"The two are intertwined and we are respectful of that ... but the two entities should be separated, appropriate partners found in both cases in order for both to flourish, and that's what we are looking for," she said.

She tempered her comments, however, by noting that no decision would be made until she had seen the whole report.

"We are taking a very pragmatic approach to it, but a very thoughtful approach to it as well," she said.   Continued...

<p>A sign is seen outside the reactor at the Atomic Energy Canada Limited (AECL) Chalk River nuclear facility during a media tour in Chalk River, Ontario, December 19, 2007. REUETRS/Chris Wattie</p>