Manitoba nuclear plant creating jobs 15 years after being decommissioned
PINAWA, Man. -- Talk about your long goodbyes. Fifteen years after Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. announced it was going to close its nuclear research plant in Pinawa, Man., not only is it still the biggest employer in the region, it's hiring. Gran...
PINAWA, Man. -- Talk about your long goodbyes.
Fifteen years after Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. announced it was going to close its nuclear research plant in Pinawa, Man., not only is it still the biggest employer in the region, it's hiring.
Grant Koroll, AECL's program manager for its Whiteshell plant's decommissioning program, said the company still has more than 400 people on the payroll. That's down from its peak of about 900 in the 1980s, but all indications point to it being a significant driver of economic activity in the area for years and indeed decades to come.
"There's a lot of work to do," he said. "If all industries worked with the same diligence and environmental accountability as our business does, (taking so long) wouldn't be unusual."
Decommissioning means taking apart the facility piece by piece and assessing what parts require treatment for radioactivity.
Each clean piece is disposed of in a landfill while low and medium radioactive parts are packed in an above-ground storage unit, where they'll stay until a permanent disposal facility is built. Waste with high levels of radioactivity are also stored in canisters until a permanent facility is built.
AECL's workforce has actually doubled over the last four years, ever since it received $130 million in federal money to fund the decommissioning.
"We went from 0 to 100 miles an hour (after that)," Koroll said.
On the town's website, the plant is advertising to hire another six professionals. It also uses contractors, such as engineers and consultants, to help with the decommissioning workload.
Pinawa Mayor Blair Skinner, a former employee, said the company continues to be a "very positive" influence on the town of about 1,450 people.
"We've had 56 new homes built in the last five years. A lot of retirees moved to Pinawa to buy up houses when AECL was downsizing," he said.
A new seniors' housing complex is on schedule to open in June.
Nancy Bremner, community development officer for the Pinawa Community Development Corp., said in 1995 when officials decided to shut the plant, many saw it as "catastrophic." Almost immediately, the housing market fell through the floor.
Instead of leaving the community northeast of Winnipeg, many former employees decided to stay and start their own businesses, most of them in their own homes.
"We have 133 businesses in town but you only see eight store fronts," she said.
The tiny community not far from the Ontario boundary may still be home to the nuclear industry if Skinner and a number of local players have their way. They're investigating whether the site's current decommissioning license could be converted for a nuclear reactor which could export energy.
(Winnipeg Free Press)