To The Ottawa Citizen :

1998 June 23

To the Editor, The Ottawa Citizen:

There is a misconception, evident in your June 23 editorial "Making it up in volume", that Canada's CANDU sales cannot be commercial because of the level of public funding currently and historically received by AECL. Your statement, "if this were a normal commercial operation it wouldn't need [the historic subsidies]" echoes the sentiment, but misses two obvious points:

Firstly, the federal support of AECL was for nuclear research, not just R&D of the CANDU business. As AECL's Alan Kilpatrick pointed out in a June 17 letter to The Citizen, this research included medical isotopes, cancer therapy machines, solid-state materials research (for which Dr. Brockhouse won his Nobel Prize), fundamental nuclear physics, and other areas related to nuclear science. It is analogous to federal support of agricultural, aerospace, and biomedical research, all of which have commercial components as well.

Secondly, it is common practice, and wise policy, for national governments to support energy R&D, such as CANDU. This fact is evident in federal energy investments such as the $7 billion sunk in the Petroleum Incentive Program from 1981 to 1988, and the $2.7 billion committed to the Hibernia Project. Nobody argues with the commercial viability of oil and petroleum! In domestic electricity production alone, CANDU reactors have made back their public investment (as a 1995 Ernst & Young study shows), and Alan Kilpatrick pointed out the financial soundness of off-shore CANDU sales.

Jeremy Whitlock