Vampire will be back for its free lunch

HynesEdit.JPGBy James G. Hynes

(Editor's Note: Less than six months after this prescient note from Jim Hynes, the Conservative government announced that "workforce transition" costs associated with the deal would cost $285 million this fiscal year.)
How about the whopping $15 million the feds are getting as a return on the Canadian taxpayers' 60-year, $21-billion investment in cash-sucking AECL? Is this really and truly the end of a boondoggle so massive and long-lasting it's become part of the nation's geography, the financial equivalent of Niagara Falls? Shovelling another few hundred million dollars into AECL every year has been a necessary seasonal evil for decades, like shovelling the driveway in January. But now it's gone...sort of.

SNC Lavalin will quickly prune the tree to a more modest size, concentrating on the refurbishment of existing reactors, where there may actually be some money to be Darlington%20266X126.jpgmade under better management. But what about new reactors? Will the new owners keep chasing rainbows as a bit player in a field where even the multinational biggies find it hard to make ends meet? Ontario Power Generation has been playing hard to get over a deal for two new AECL reactors, but now the shoe is suddenly on the other foot; OPG — it's Darlington nuclear plant is pictured here — may be left in the lurch, if AECL's new owners decide not to continue that high-cost, high-risk, low-or-no-return part of the business. That would send OPG shopping among the big Franco-German and Japanese-American providers, a move with bad political optics and worse financial consequences for OPG, out shopping with no more federal taxpayers trailing behind, moneybags in hand. So what will happen? A deal will get done so AECL will end up building two more reactors for OPG after all. And guess whose money will provide the big, fat risk-reduction cushions required to make it happen? The AECL vampire will probably live on, still sucking taxpayers' blood, only we won't own it anymore. We'll just keep providing the free lunch after dark.

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