After the crisis at the Chalk River reactor that caused a worldwide shortage of medical isotopes in 2009, Canada’s nuclear industry is once again facing major issues. More than 800 Candu Energy employees are on strike as of the morning of July 9, looking for higher wages. The scientists, engineers and technologists work at Candu plants in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.
The plants they work in supply power around the world.
Perhaps those employees should also be demanding safety in their workplace as well. At least one Candu plant – Gentilly-2 in Quebec – is decaying. The concrete and steel encasement that prevents radiation leaks at the plant could fail if the decay is allowed to continue, according to a 2010 report from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).
The plant is one of many that regulators say is operating well past its expected life of 25 to 30 years, but the CNSC says it continues to be safe and has extended the plant’s license through 2016.
Atomic Energy of Canada’s (AECL) solution to the issues that shut down Chalk River was to sell the Candu division to SNC-Lavelin (in a deal that saw the government essentially paying the engineering firm to take the division off their hands). AECL is also looking for a private partner for their nuclear labs in Chalk River.
While AECL continues to try to find solutions to issues in the nuclear sector, the Harper government continues to focus on oil sands development rather than trying to develop a clean energy economy. The government also continues to attack anyone who questions this strategy.
Will we have a real crisis before things start to change? We’ll have to wait and see.
Photo Credit: Topato