Companies vie for Chalk River reactor

Photo courtesy of the National Research Council

Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011 – Globe and Mail

Over more than half a century, the reactor in Chalk River, Ont., has produced a Nobel prize and boosted Canada’s stature as a nuclear innovator, acting as a magnet for budding researchers.

It’s also been the source of deep national embarrassment thanks to an unscheduled outage at the aging reactor in 2009 that led to a global shortage of medical isotopes.

Now it’s been effectively orphaned as Ottawa sells off the CANDU reactor arm of its parent company, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.

That divestiture is forcing the federal government to decide whether to continue running it and eventually replace the reactor, operate it until it is too old to repair any more and shut it down, bring in private-sector partners to help run and finance it, or some combination of these options.

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New $1.2-billion reactor needed for isotopes, Ottawa told

Friday, December 4, 2009 – Globe and Mail

Canada has been told to act swiftly and aggressively by building a new billion-dollar multipurpose reactor to secure its isotope supply for the next several decades and to prevent another global isotope shortage.

An expert-panel report commissioned by the federal Department of Natural Resources also recommended adopting supplementary production methods. The panel convened in June in the midst of a global shortage of the radioactive material and as Ottawa was musing about getting out of the isotope-producing business.

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Chalk River workers want to run nuclear facility

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 – Globe and Mail

As the fate of Canada’s nuclear industry hangs in the limbo of unreleased government-commissioned reports, workers at the Chalk River reactor are taking matters into their own hands.

Fearing a looming, but still vague, restructuring of the Crown corporation that operates the reactor, they’ve submitted their own proposal to Ottawa – an ambitious plan that would see Chalk River independent of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.’s reactor business and become a nuclear research giant in its own right.

“The silence” from Natural Resources Canada, says Gordon Tapp, president of Chalk River Technicians and Technologists, “is deafening.”

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The isotope crisis: How Canada let the world down

Friday, August 14, 2009

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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