UPDATE 1-Only 2 bids submitted for Canada's AECL-newspaper

Wed Nov 10, 2010 5:31pm GMT
 

* SNC-Lavalin, Bruce Power are sole bidders, paper says

* Offering far less than Ottawa wants

* Minister says studying bids, all options on table (Adds comments from natural resources minister)

TORONTO, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Only two companies have submitted bids for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd in the year since the federal government put the nuclear technology company up for sale, the Globe and Mail newspaper said on Wednesday.

Citing unnamed sources close to the negotiations, the Globe said SNC-Lavalin Group Inc (SNC.TO: Quote) and Bruce Power have put in formal bids, but offered far less than what Ottawa wants for AECL, the federally owned corporation that produces the Candu heavy-water reactors.

Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis said he would not comment on the newspaper report because of "commercial sensitivities" but said he hoped the sale process would be settled "sooner rather than later".

"The priority now is to restructure. There are bidders and the offers are being studied," Paradis told reporters after a speech in Calgary on Wednesday morning.

"We study all of the options. So it could be a 100 percent sale, it could a partnership. Everything is on the table now."

The Conservative government wants to sell AECL because of huge annual subsidies, recent problems at its Chalk River medical isotope operation and a poor performance by the reactor business.

Under its plan, Ottawa would retain ownership of the research business and place it under private management, but sell off the reactor operations.

Neither SNC-Lavalin, Canada's largest engineering concern, nor Bruce Power, operator of an Ontario nuclear generating station on Lake Huron, is willing to commit to financing the completion of an advanced reactor technology that AECL would need to compete, the paper said.

That would relegate AECL to niche markets.

Neither SNC-Lavalin nor Bruce Power -- part owned by big uranium miner Cameco Corp (CCO.TO: Quote) -- was immediately available for comment.

AECL's aging Chalk River reactor has been shut down twice in recent years for repairs, disrupting supplies of medical isotopes used to diagnose cancer and other diseases. (Reporting by Frank McGurty in Toronto, Scott Haggett in Calgary and Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; editing by Rob Wilson)

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