Canada Cabinet Approves Loan for Turkey Reactors

OTTAWA (Reuters)–The Canadian cabinet has approved a controversial C$1.5 billion loan to finance the sale of two nuclear reactors to Turkey–according to government documen’s obtained Wednesday by Reuters.

The loan would come through the government’s Export Development Corp.–making Canada liable if the Turkish government was unable to repay the loan.

The documen’s also show the government wants to avoid putting the deal through Canada’s environmental assessment process for approval.

The Ottawa government similarly avoided the environmental assessment process when it pushed through a contentious C$4 billion sale of reactors to China last year.

Instead–the cabinet plans for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.–the federally owned corporation bidding for the Turkish nuclear reactor contract — to conduct its own “shadow” environmental assessment–the documen’s show.

“The government will ensure that AECL undertakes a thorough environmental assessment of the proposed CANDU (nuclear reactor) project for Turkey,” the documen’s say.

However–the documen’s show plainly that the Justice Department has warned the government it may lose a court challenge over last November’s previous sales of reactors to China.

Federal cabinet ministers were roasted in parliament Wednesday by opposition members who called Canada’s environmental assessment process “meaningless.”

“How can the prime minister explain that his government is ready to get around its own rules and regulations with the sole objective of selling reactors to Turkey–while here in Ontario we’re closing down these reactors because of danger to the environment?” Bloc Quebecois member Bernard Bigras asked.

Ontario Hydro–North America’s largest utility–shut down seven nuclear reactors last summer after a scathing report criticized management for a lack of accountable leadership–and ranked all operating units “minimally acceptable” in terms of safety and performance.

Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale argued that Ontario Hydro’s problems were linked to management–not the performance of CANDU reactors and pledged that AECL would comply with all Canadian and Turkish requiremen’s as part of its bid to sell the two nuclear reactors.

“In relation to the bid process–which is not completed and still under way in Turkey–one of the bid’s specifications was in fact the complete satisfaction of all relevant environmental regulations and assessmen’s,” Goodale told the Canadian parliament.

In Turkey–AECL is competing against Nuclear Power International–a Franco-German group–and a US-Japanese consortium led by Westinghouse Electric Corp. and Mitsubishi Corp–Toronto’s Globe and Mail reported.

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