CNL ready for the future
Mark Lesinski, the president and CEO of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), right, speaks to the Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce on Friday, as Chad Charbonneau, CNL’s Director, Supply Chain, looks on. The two were the guest speakers at the chamber's annual general meeting, held at Anthony's Italian Grill.
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ shakedown cruise hasn’t been easy, but is making progress.
Mark Lesinski, the president and CEO of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), said the last year has been a busy one, as the company is transformed from a research one to a more commercial entity, through changes in corporate culture and in updating its infrastructure. He said gone are the days of research for research sake, noting while there will always be that element, most of what they do will have more direct commercial applications.
“We want to take the burden of the lab off of the Canadian taxpayer, and pay for it ourselves,” Lesinski told members of the Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce Friday, explaining the company is privately run under the government-owned, contractor-operated model, while the assets and liabilities are owned by the government. They were gathered in Anthony’s Italian Grill for their annual general meeting.
The president said their priorities continue to be the legacy cleanup, rebuilding the infrastructure of the Chalk River complex and modernizing operations with new construction. To date, they have demolished 20 older buildings out of the 120 they intend to flatten, plus are working on getting the Near Surface Disposal Facility project approved, which will be used to get rid of the demolition waste and dispose it on site.
He said they have been adding facilities as well, including the $113 million lab complex build in October.
“We’ll do a lot of good research and materials research there,” Lesinski said. He estimates it would take five years to complete the corporate transformation from the top down, but said they will get there.
The president said some of the future projects which they will be working on include helping extend the operational life of existing reactors, continue work on hydrogen-based fuels, assist in the development of very small modular reactors – which would be used by isolated communities in the north as power sources – by being the host and testing site for the prototypes, and connect up their own bio-research labs with pharmaceutical companies to work on nuclear medicine development.
Answering a question from Jayne Brophy, Pembroke Mall manager, about future employment at CNL, Lesinski said he sees workforce levels remaining stable for the next few years while work is completed on the corporate reorganizing.
“The reality is we have a shift going on,” he said, once the NRU reactor is shut down next year. Currently, between 400 and 500 people are assigned to the NRU, meaning work will have to be found for them, and others may have to be let go.
“That doesn’t mean letting them all go,” he said. Many would still be needed for the lengthy decommissioning process as the reactor and surrounding support structures are disassembled a piece at a time and disposed of, a process which will take years.
Lesinski said as they work on improving their corporate systems, it is inevitable there will be adjustments on the size of the workforce, as the company’s priorities shift. But how much and how many jobs could be affected is something which no one can accurately predict. It really depends on the amount of work and projects they are doing at the time, the president said.
“I’m not sugar coating it,” he said. “It’s not going to remain at the 3,000 level.” Lesinski said it will likely be somewhere between 2,000 to 3,000 if they do well, depending on how the company performs.
Larry Schruder from the Delphi Group asked if there is a way to encourage CNL’s contractors and suppliers to buy local.
Chad Charbonneau, CNL’s Director, Supply Chain, said that is on their radar and is very important to them. He said part of these changes in the way CNL does things is how they will stir up the regional economy by including them in their procurement plans.
He said they will use a fair and open process whenever contracts of goods and services come up, giving plenty of advance notice so local businesses will have a chance to get ready to apply for them, plus provide information so they would know who to contact, both within CNL, its partners and its contractors.
Charbonneau said a portal on the CNL website will become active March 31, allowing interested businesses to check what is coming up in terms of business opportunities.
“This would be a chance to stand up and get noticed,” he said.