Nuclear engineers strike at major vendor in Canada

CANDU technology marks an important milestone on Monday, June 4, 2012 with the 50th anniversary of nuclear power in Canada. On this date a CANDU reactor started to feed the Ontario electricity grid from the Nuclear Power Demonstration near Rolphton, Ontario (west of Ottawa) with about 20 megawatts of power.

“We are proud of the engineers, scientists, technologists and others who helped design and build one of only three prevailing nuclear technologies,” said Peter White, President of the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA). “They have created one of the best systems in the world, a complex undertaking that few other countries have been able to achieve.”

CANDU reactors currently supply over 50% of Ontario’s power and are also found in Quebec and New Brunswick. Internationally, CANDU reactors are located in Argentina, China, India, Pakistan, Romania and South Korea. CANDU reactors are distinctive from other reactors because they use heavy water coolant and therefore do not require the uranium to be enriched. In addition, they do not need to be shut down to be refueled.

“This historic milestone should have been an opportunity for celebration and optimism but it is marred by SNC-Lavalin who has declared war on the union that represents the technical staff who design CANDU reactors as well as help maintain them. They do not understand our industry and are only concerned with getting back their investment,” said White. “We have lost hundreds of the best and brightest who are involved in the design of the next generation of CANDU reactors and this declaration of war against those that remain will result in their exodus as well. Their loss will mean that another 50 years of CANDU is very unlikely.”

SPEA has been forced to initiate a series of targeted strikes to reinforce its position in negotiations with SNC-Lavalin. “Instead of investing in the people who will deliver new and improved systems, SNC-Lavalin is trying to pay for the sale on the backs of the technical staff at Candu Energy who are also its “breadwinner,” White pointed out. “They should be investing in the company and going out and closing sales, something that the last government would not do, which created the situation we are in now.”

“Our members have a proud history in developing CANDU technology. We know its best days are potentially still ahead of us and we are confident that we will get there,” said White. “Our challenge is to get a fair and respectful collective agreement with SNC-Lavalin and let us get back to work on the safest, most efficient and reliable nuclear power system in the world. If we are forced to swallow the concessions on the table our best employees will go elsewhere and that will mark the end of CANDU technology as we know it.”