AECL: Will anyone want to buy it?

Friday, August 14, 2009 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. can’t seem to get a break.

Its reactor leaks. Its projects are overdue. No one seems keen on its cutting-edge technology – at least not as much as they were a few years ago.

In May, shortly after Chalk River’s latest problems appeared, Ottawa put AECL’s future into the hands of N.M. Rothschild and Sons, which is to deliver a restructuring plan and financial advice this fall.

Can AECL be sold off wholesale? In pieces? The most pressing question, says Bryne Purchase, a professor of public policy at Queen’s University, is whether there will be anything the private sector will be interested in buying.

“Aside from the refurbishment business, which doesn’t seem to be going that well anyway, what could you possibly be privatizing? … There’s nothing to sell. There’s no business.”

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The isotope crisis: How Canada let the world down

Friday, August 14, 2009
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

Canada, once relied upon as a leader in isotope production, is now seen as having reneged on its responsibility to the medical world.

The isotope-producing NRU reactor at Chalk River, Ont., will stay shut down until the spring of 2010, at least – marking the third time Crown corporation Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. has pushed back its estimated restart date since the aging reactor was taken offline in late May when a heavy water leak was discovered.

The news was met with frustration yesterday, and a growing sense among the international medical community that Canada has bungled its nuclear file.

The federal government has convened an expert panel, appointed a special adviser on isotopes and has invested $6-million toward research into alternatives to Chalk River.

But by failing to plan for or respond quickly to the failure of a reactor at the end of its lifespan, Canada is going back on its “implied contract” to provide scarce and much-needed medical isotopes, said Robert Atcher, president of the international Society of Nuclear Medicine.

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Chalk River shutdown: Nuclear inaction puts half-century of innovation at risk

Saturday, June 20, 2009 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

TORONTO — Chalk River is the reason Thad Harroun came to Canada.

The biophysicist and California native had worked with experts in his field on both sides of the Atlantic. But it was Canada’s NRU reactor in Chalk River, Ont., that drew him north. Prof. Harroun did postdoctoral work there and got a teaching position at Brock University. He travels regularly up to the reactor to shine high-powered neutron beams at bits of cell membranes and see what happens.

Or, at least, he did.

Now, he’s stuck in St. Catharines, Ont., research stymied by the same shutdown that has caused a worldwide isotope shortage. And he’s at a loss.

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