Even nuclear power took a hit in the recession of 1982

Despite flashy sales videos, takers were few or nonexistent for Canada's Candu nuclear reactors during hard times.

Canadian nuclear reactors were a hard sell during hard times

No money, no Candu

40 years ago
Duration 2:10
The recession of 1982 even has an impact on the nuclear industry.

The recession of 1982 affected everything from restaurants in Calgary to Air Canada seat sales to the Santa Claus Parade in Toronto.

And in the middle of that year, CBC's The National highlighted another Canadian industry affected by the economic downturn: nuclear power. 

"The industry fears thousands of jobs could be lost unless someone, somewhere buys a Candu reactor — soon," said host Knowlton Nash on June 8, 1982.

Reporter Terry Milewski took up the story from Pickering, Ont., the site of one such reactor.

No buyers since '76

Romania had been considering buying a Candu reactor, but its bankruptcy put a halt to the possibility. (The National/CBC Archives)

The reactor in Pickering had produced "more electricity than anywhere else in the world," according to the reporter.

"Nobody has since Korea bought this one in 1976," said Milewski, as a picture of a reactor was shown.

But since Canada's potential client base consisted of other countries, all of which were affected by a "worldwide recession," buyers had become few and far between. 

Romania and Mexico had both been potential Candu buyers, but neither deal materialized.

 "No money, no Candu," said Milewski.

Jobs in jeopardy

Norman Aspin, president of the Canadian Nuclear Association, said manufacturing jobs were threatened if no orders came in for Candu projects. (The National/CBC Archives)

The president of the Canadian Nuclear Association, Norman Aspin, didn't sound very hopeful that a sale was coming soon.

"Unless we do find some new orders for these very large projects ... these people in the manufacturing sector suddenly will be in jeopardy," he said.

There was a second potential site the Canadian government had identified, in Point Lepreau, N.B., that could sell power to the United States. But it was "very controversial," noted Milewski.

That left the nuclear lobby polishing its sales pitch.

'Absolutely fantastic'

Part of the Candu pitch included a TV commercial extolling the efficiency of a Candu nuclear reactor. (The National/CBC Archives)

One part of the pitch was a commercial composed of what was seemingly cutting-edge computer graphics at the time.

"Not only is it conservative in fuel," said the narrator of the Candu commercial. "But it works with a regularity and reliability that are absolutely fantastic."

If the pitch didn't lure any buyers, the negative effects for the 30,000 "highly skilled" workers in the nuclear sector could be serious.

"Several thousand have already been lost," noted Milewski. "And another 5,000 in manufacturing are hanging in the balance."

Reporter Terry Milewski stands in front of the nuclear reactor in Pickering, Ont. (The National/CBC Archives)

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