Atomic Energy of Canada Limited

About AECL

GoCo Contract Renewal

AECL has launched a competitive procurement process to continue the management and operation of CNL beyond the current contract, which expires in September 2025.

This page was last updated December 15, 2023


AECL delivers its mandate through a Government-owned, Contractor-operated (GoCo) model, whereby a private-sector organization, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), is responsible for operating AECL’s sites.

Under the GoCo model, AECL owns the sites, facilities, assets, intellectual property and responsibility for environmental remediation and radioactive waste management. CNL is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the sites.

CNL has been managed since September of 2015 by Canadian National Energy Alliance (CNEA), a consortium made up of three partner companies – SNC-Lavalin, Jacobs Engineering and Fluor Federal Services – under a contract that will expire in September of 2025.

AECL has launched a competitive process to continue the management and operation of CNL beyond that date.

The objective of the procurement is to enter into a contract that will reduce and/or contain costs and risks for Canadian taxpayers while leveraging CNL’s capabilities and resources for the benefit of Canadians.

More specifically, the selected Contractor will, amongst other things:

manage CNL safely and securely;
strengthen the role of CNL in addressing Canada and the world’s most pressing challenges and opportunities;
use best practices and innovative approaches to enable cost savings or cost stabilization;
accelerate environmental remediation, decommissioning and waste management and significantly shrink AECL’s footprint;
generate new commercial opportunities and partnerships for the laboratories that grow revenues and align with AECL and Government objectives, primarily in the areas of clean energy and health;
manage, maintain and/or build the capabilities, resources and infrastructure (assets) required to satisfy AECL’s mandate;
solve complex technical, financial and regulatory issues;
in the spirt of reconciliation, build and maintain long-term relationships with Indigenous communities with the goal of achieving mutual learning and understanding, respect and healing as well as to support opportunities for economic benefit.

The Process

The procurement process will be conducted in one continuous process consisting of three separate and sequential stages. AECL reserves the right to change any or all of this process:

  1. The Request for Expression of Interest (“RFEOI”) in order to solicit input and feedback from interested parties on various elements of a potential competitive procurement process to manage and operate AECL’s Nuclear Laboratories under a GoCo model.
    1. The objective of the RFEOI is to solicit input via capability statements from interested parties with the specialized experience and capabilities necessary to meet all the major elements of scope required to manage and operate CNL.
    2. The RFEOI is not a bid solicitation and will not result in the award of any contract.
  2. The Request for Pre-Qualification (“RFPQ”) stage, in which interested parties submit a Response that will be evaluated to confirm that mandatory technical criteria, financial capability requirements, national security requirements, and certifications are met. The RFPQ stage also includes detailed consultations with respondents that have met the pre-qualification requirements of the RFPQ (“Qualified Respondents”). The detailed requirements and terms of the draft Request for Proposal (“RFP”) and form of contract will be made available during the detailed consultations during the RFPQ stage for feedback from Qualified Respondents. At the end of the RFPQ stage, Qualified Respondents will have been provided with a final RFP.
  3. The final RFP stage, or bid solicitation process, is when bids will be solicited from Qualified Respondents. Only Qualified Respondents from the RFPQ stage will be eligible to submit bids in the RFP stage. In the final RFP stage, bids will typically be evaluated against mandatory, and point rated criteria. Contract award is anticipated at the end of the final RFP stage.

Key Dates

  • September 26, 2022 Launch of the Request for Expression of Interest
  • October 26, 2022 Closing date for submitting responses to the Request for Expression of Interest
  • Fall 2022/Winter 2023 Information received through the Request for Expression of Interest reviewed and analyzed
  • March 23, 2023 Briefing and tour of the Chalk River Laboratories for interested bidders
  • March 31 2023 Release of the Request for Pre-Qualification
  • Winter/Spring 2023 Outreach to local communities, stakeholders and Indigenous communities (engagement activities will commence at that time and be ongoing for the duration of the procurement process)
  • Fall 2023 Publish draft CNL Statement of Work for 2025-2035 for public comment
  • Spring 2023-Spring 2024 Engage Qualified Respondents in Draft Request for Proposal process
  • Spring 2024 Release Final Request for Proposal
  • Spring/Summer 2024 Bid Preparation (Qualified Respondents)
  • Fall 2024-Spring 2025 Bid Evaluation
  • Spring/Summer 2025 Selection of Preferred Bidder, Contract Award and Transition-In

AECL reserves the right to change these dates.

How to Engage

On December 14, 2023, AECL published a draft copy of the CNL Statement of Work for the 2025-2035 period. Members of the public, interested stakeholders and Indigenous nations and communities are invited to provide comments by January 31, 2024. All comments should be sent to: 

For any questions about about the process, please email:


This procurement process will not affect ongoing work, projects and priorities of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. Canadian Nuclear Laboratories itself is not changing and continues to be responsible for managing and operating AECL’s sites and assets. AECL’s Government-owned, Contractor-operated model has been specifically set up to enable continuity in operations, having learned from experiences in other jurisdictions to create a unique, tailored-for-Canada contracting model.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is AECL undertaking a procurement process?

  • AECL delivers its mandate through a Government-owned, Contractor-operated model, whereby a private-sector organization, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), is responsible for operating AECL’s sites.
  • CNL has been managed since September of 2015 by Canadian National Energy Alliance, a consortium currently made up of three partner companies – AtkinsRéalis, Jacobs Engineering and Fluor Federal Services – under a contract that will expire in September of 2025.
  • A competitive procurement process is underway to award a follow-on contract to continue the management of CNL beyond that date.
  • Undertaking a competitive procurement process is generally the best mechanism to ensure that the greatest value is obtained. AECL believes that the process will do just that, while driving forward the best ideas and innovation for the Canadian nuclear agenda.

What is AECL hoping to achieve in this next contract?

  • We expect that the current scope will continue into the new contract, such as addressing AECL’s decommissioning and radioactive waste management responsibilities, building a world-class nuclear laboratory at Chalk River to fulfill government requirements, and reduce costs and risks to Canada over the long-term.
  • We also expect to further advance our nuclear science & technology, research and innovation agenda. We want to position the Chalk River Laboratories to leverage their capabilities to address the priorities of Canada, including climate change.
  • We will be looking for a contractor who can continue to build strong community engagement, collaboration with the Canadian nuclear ecosystem, and contribute to reconciliation by building partnerships with Indigenous communities.

A new contract won’t be needed until 2025, why are you doing this now?

  • AECL wants to ensure that that the procurement process is thorough, rigorous, fair and transparent, however, doing so can take a significant amount of time.
  • Given the large and complex scope that is involved in managing and operating a nuclear laboratory and cleaning up radioactively contaminated sites and facilities, AECL needs to allow sufficient time.
  • This includes ensuring that interested bidders meet, among other things, certain financial, technical, integrity qualifications, as well as national security criteria.
  • There will also be consultations with qualified bidders on the scope of work and other contractual matters. AECL also intends to engage local communities and Indigenous communities and Nations on its plans in order to gather input and help inform contractual requirements.
  • Furthermore, there is time allotted in the schedule for proper transition from the outgoing contractor to the incoming contractor, if applicable.

If the current consortium (Canadian National Energy Alliance) bids on the new contract, won’t they have an inside edge, having performed the job since 2015?

  • In all procurement activities, whether big or small, the incumbent typically has an advantage since they have experience and knowledge that is directly relevant to the procurement process and scope of work. This is called the ‘incumbent advantage’. However, that does not automatically mean that it is an “unfair” advantage.
  • Knowing this, best practices in procurement are for the contracting authority – in this case AECL – to minimize the incumbent advantage and maintain fairness in the process. In this space, AECL will be assisted by a third-party fairness monitor.
  • AECL expects a robust competition that will ensure the best bidders participate in the process, and ultimately provide best value to Canada.

Why do you need to have a private company to run CNL – why doesn’t AECL run it - the way it used to be?

  • The Government-owned, Contractor-operated contracting model allows AECL to take full advantage of private-sector expertise and experience to accelerate the decommissioning and radioactive-waste management program, build a world-class nuclear laboratory at Chalk River to fulfill government requirements, and reduce costs and risks to Canada over the long-term.
  • As the government’s agent, AECL’s role is to provide oversight of the Government-owned, Contractor-operated contract and support the government’s development of nuclear policy.
  • Under this model, AECL can advance its priorities efficiently and effectively through the contract with CNL while ensuring that CNL meets and exceeds rigorous safety, security, and environmental requirements.
  • We are already seeing value in the work that CNL has done since the implementation of the Government-owned, Contractor-operated model. For example:
    • More than 110 buildings and structures have been demolished at the Chalk River Laboratories, compared to 24 that were planned prior to the award of the current Government-owned, Contractor-operated contract.
    • The closure of the Whiteshell site is now planned for 2027, more than 30 years ahead of the previous schedule.
    • We have completed the repatriation of highly enriched uranium to the US, reducing a large risk and liability for Canada.
    • The Port Granby Project remediation has been completed, which represents the clean-up of contaminated sites and safe management of 1.3 million tonnes of historic low-level radioactive waste and contaminated soils.
    • Several new buildings are going up at the Chalk River site, and we have broken ground for the construction of the Advanced Nuclear Materials Research Center, the linchpin new science facility.
    • CNL has put in place processes and systems to track performance across their activities.
    • CNL has been delivering valuable science in support of the Government of Canada through the Federal Nuclear Science & Technology Work Plan, with high levels of engagement across the 14 participating departments and agencies.
    • CNL has launched initiatives to advance small modular reactors, and has set up partnerships to advance targeted alpha therapy, a groundbreaking new area of cancer research.
    • There have been important changes in the management and administration of activities, including implementation of industry standard corporate program and project management systems.
  • We consider all of these to be very positive signs that the Government-owned, Contractor-operated model is delivering value to Canada. That said, we recognize that there are always areas for improvement. What we look for in CNL is the ability to identify risks, respond accordingly and continue to learn and progress as an organization to deliver things effectively and efficiently, but most importantly, safely.

AECL appears to duplicate a lot of what CNL does, why are there two separate organizations?

  • AECL sets priorities for CNL and assesses its performance. In other words, AECL sets out “what” needs to be achieved with CNL deciding “how” it is best executed.
  • AECL provides strategic guidance annually to CNL for the development of its plans which, in turn, are supported by, and aligned with, longer-term plans which are accepted by AECL. We hold CNL accountable for its performance based on its planned activities, including project milestones and deliverables.

What impact will new leadership of CNL have on the work being done? Could a new leadership team potentially decide to go in a different direction?

  • AECL sets priorities for CNL and these are not expected to change with this procurement process. AECL’s role is to oversee CNL’s performance against the Government-owned, Contractor-operated contract and support its priorities and those of the Government of Canada.
  • All of CNL’s plans, from their long-term plans to their annual plans, are approved by AECL. As such, any changes to CNL’s directions, including new projects or the cancellation of existing projects, would have to be approved by AECL.  
  • CNL and its 3000+ employees are an enduring entity and will remain responsible for operating AECL’s sites. We expect that only individuals in senior management positions will change with a new contract being issued. 

What impact will this have on the CNL workforce?

  • CNL is an ‘enduring entity’, meaning that contractors can come and go, but CNL remains. As such, CNL remains the employer of the workforce and the operator of AECL’s sites.
  • We expect stability in CNL’s workforce in order to deliver on the important work and initiatives underway, including nuclear science and technology activities, decommissioning and waste management, as well as capital projects.

What happens to the contracts that CNL currently has in place with the supply chain (e.g. for new buildings, equipment, etc.)? Do they all get cancelled if a new contractor comes in?

  • CNL is an ‘enduring entity’, meaning that contractors can come and go, but CNL remains. As such, all of the contracts that CNL has in place will remain, including those that may run into the next Government-owned, Contractor-operated contract period.

Are you expecting a Canadian firm or consortium to run CNL? There seem to have been a lot of Americans running things in the last few years.

  • The current contractor consortium is comprised of a Canadian-owned company and two U.S.-owned firms.
  • In undertaking this competitive procurement process, AECL is looking to bring best value for Canadians, and the best ideas and innovation for the Canadian nuclear agenda.
  • Expertise in the area of nuclear science and technology, and decommissioning and waste management is global, and as such we expect that interested bidders may come from various countries.
  • One of the benefits of the Government-owned, Contractor-operated model is to provide for a transfer of knowledge and expertise from the contractor consortium’s senior leadership team and expert resources to the CNL employees that comprise the enduring entity.

How will you decide on which bidder is best?

  • As part of the competitive procurement process, AECL will be evaluating qualified bidders based on, among other things, their capability, experience and expertise, as well as ability to deliver on the contractual requirements and AECL’s priorities.

To what extent is cost taken into account when deciding on the winning bid?

  • There are several factors that are taken into account when evaluating bids. These include costs, qualifications, experience, capability, and approaches to deliver the scope of work of the contract based on AECL’s priorities and expectations.
  • In setting the details and weighing of the evaluation criteria, AECL will look for expertise and other factors, including but not limited to best value to Canada.

What is happening to the Whiteshell Site?

  • Decommissioning activities at the Whiteshell Laboratories site are ongoing, with plans to close the site by 2027.
  • As part of the current Government-owned, Contractor-operated contract, the decommissioning and closure of the Whiteshell Laboratories is being executed by CNL under a target-cost agreement. This is a type of contract whereby the contractor agrees to perform the work based on a specific cost submitted in its bid (the target cost). If that price is achieved, the contractor stands to make a certain amount of fee; cost increases or decreases are shared by both the contractor and the client (in this case AECL).
  • AECL is currently planning on terminating the target cost agreement for the Whiteshell Laboratories and to include it as part of the broader ‘management and operating’ contract for the entirety of CNL operations.
  • This change, if it implemented, is not expected to have an impact on the activities or the workforce at the site. What would change are some of the contract management processes and procedures, including how CNL and the contractor’s performance is reported upon and managed by AECL.
  • In other words, AECL views this as an administrative change, and not a change in the objectives, direction, priorities and activities currently underway at the Whiteshell Laboratories.

The Draft Statement of Work mentions that there are six sites that are to be closed between now and 2035. What are they?

Does AECL still intend on bringing radioactive waste from other locations in Canada to the Chalk River Site?

  • AECL will be asking CNL to continue the current plans to bring AECL-owned waste to the Chalk River site. This is waste from other, smaller AECL sites located in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.
  • Low-level radioactive waste from other AECL-owned sites is expected to be disposed of in the planned near surface disposal facility.
  • Intermediate-level and high-level waste from other AECL-owned sites will be stored at the Chalk River site until final disposal facilities are available, at which point the waste will be transported to those facilities. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is leading projects to identify disposal solutions and locations for both intermediate-level and high-level radioactive waste.

Where can we submit comments on the Draft Statement of Work?

Will you be releasing the names of the Qualified Respondents (pre-qualified bidders)?

  • At this time, AECL does not intend to release the names of the Qualified Respondents.