AECON EXPANDS NUCLEAR FOOTPRINT IN THE U.S.
Inset: On the floor at Aecon, Cambridge with [l-r], Sean Strickland, OCS CEO, Chris Riehl, Business Agent, UA Local 527, Local 527 members Erica Latour, John Smit, Andrew St. Cyr, Michael Triebner, Tim Arseneault and John Beck, Executive Chairman, Aecon Group Inc.
There are many reasons why Aecon’s Energy segment in Cambridge is celebrating these days.
Last month, Aecon delivered the first of 24 manufactured ASME III nuclear modules to Westinghouse Nuclear in the U.S. To mark the occasion of the delivery of the first two modules, the company gave a plant tour to invited guests and invited them to lunch with staff at the Cambridge facility. It was an opportunity to showcase the company’s exemplary safety and training record and its energy segment.
The energy segment is one of four within Aecon – the others being infrastructure, mining and concessions.
Generally speaking says John Beck, Executive Chairman of the Aecon Group Inc., “our energy group has never been an exporter”.
“We’ve done a lot of work outside of Canada – in Europe and Latin America on the infrastructure side”, but in the energy side, it just never happened”.
And Beck wanted that to change.
Speaking with the Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS), Beck says he believes the nuclear industry is going to enjoy a renaissance because of the continued focus on climate change.
In order to grow its reputation – especially within the nuclear industry – Aecon pointed to its superior safety record. Ian Turnbull, Aecon’s Senior Vice President for Energy East noted the company has enjoyed 4.3 million man hours without lost work due to injury. That equals 15-plus years. “It’s our number one core value”, says Turnbull.
In 2012, Aecon achieved formal certification as a nuclear fabricator from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Earning the N-stamp was monumental for Aecon because it gave them the green light to conduct nuclear business in the global arena – only a handful of contractors in Canada to be able to do so. In fact, Aecon is now the only company in Canada to build ASME section III modules for nuclear new-build projects in the U.S. since the 1980’s.
Adding to the honour, Aecon recently completed its first U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) audit, which is known in the industry to be the most intrusive audit. Aecon’s Sam Bambino, VP of Nuclear Operations, says it’s the first time the NRC has endorsed a non-American manufacturer.
“For an organization that has an expectation of high quality, the NRC has shut down some of Westinghouse’s sub-contractors, citing an issue with quality”, says Bambino. “In fact”, he says, “the NRC in its exit interview after conducting a safety audit of Aecon’s operations, indicated the audit would be used as a benchmark for all future audits”.
Turnbull says it’s an incredible accolade for the company, adding it is also a testament to the hard work of the employees who are committed to delivering exceptional results. But the company knows it’s a two-way road. The employees can’t do their part without the company providing the proper tools.
“To date”, says Turnbull, “our team has invested approximately 50-thousand hours in training and qualification – an impressive feat, as well as $3 million in new tools and technology to build and nurture this skill set locally and provincially”.
The Business Agent for UA Local 527, which represents the plumbers and steamfitters at Aecon, says this project represented a large learning curve for the members. Chris Riehl says new tests and procedures had to be implemented to successfully complete the project.
“This work provides stability and keeps jobs going for a long time”, says Riehl. “It’s given more members more opportunities to develop their skills further and gain more work in the future. It also really showcases the skill of our welders and steamfitters that can go unnoticed at times”.
At present, about 100 members of Local 527 are working on this project. During the peak time, there were about 150 steamfitters, welders and metal trades. The project has even created overflow work for other locals including Local 67 in Hamilton [fab shop].
Beck says it’s not a secret, but rather an appropriate and timely investment in skills, training and people that has made this project successful.
“It’s hard to export construction skills in general”, says Beck, “because you’re always competing with local contractors. But if you build something which is out of the ordinary – something special – with quality and superior engineering capability – that’s much easier to export”.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS)
180 Attwell Drive, Suite 360, Toronto, ON M9W 6A9
P 416.620.5210 ext. 222