Candu or can’t? That’s the big question as AtkinsRéalis’ CEO pushes toward a nuclear future – by Eric Reguly (Globe and Mail – September 23, 2023)

Ian Leslie Edwards believes the drive to net-zero emissions will trigger a nuclear revival, with old reactors everywhere being rebuilt and new ones planned

Ian Leslie Edwards shares a few numbers to reveal how the touted revival of the nuclear industry could turn the Canadian engineering company he leads, Montreal’s AtkinsRéalis ATRL-T, the former SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and owner of Candu nuclear technology, into a global energy force.

“In the 70s and 80s, about 600 nuclear reactors were built around the world, of which 33 were Candu, say 5 per cent,” he says. “Most of these 600 reactors are near the end of their lives and need replacing. But the world needs double the amount of baseload electricity. So there is probably a market for 1,200 reactors. That’s a multitrillion-dollar market. If Candu does 5 per cent again, that’s 50 to 60 reactors.”

A single large nuclear reactor costs US$10-billion. So the math suggests that AtkinsRéalis potentially could snag contacts worth as much as US$600-billion. “This is a real opportunity for Canada and AtkinsRéalis, obviously, in a net-zero world,” he says. Big, big if.

The last Candu reactor sold in Canada went into service in 1993; the last one to go into service internationally was Romania’s Cernadova-2 reactor, in 2007. But Mr. Edwards insists Candu is not an orphan despite its gruesome history of cost overruns and lavish government subsidies under its old guise as a division of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL), the Crown corporation that happily punted Candu to SNC for a pittance in 2011.

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