In announcing the request for "investor proposals," Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt said the goal is to boost AECL's global presence while reducing the financial risk carried by taxpayers.
The research-and-technology division of the Crown corporation, including the Chalk River laboratories and its troubled medical isotope production, are not part of the government sale.
A National Bank study commissioned by the Conservative government determined there is "significant private sector interest" in a stand-alone CANDU reactor business.
However the government may have undercut its own bargaining position when Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief spokesman described AECL as a "dysfunctional" $30-billion "sink-hole" last June.
That same month, the Ontario government put off a decision on new reactor construction after deciding all the bids including one for an untried, next-generation AECL reactor were too costly.