Chalk River medical isotope reactor may be down longer than expected
Posted: January 11, 2010
The Canadian Press – ONLINE EDITION

OTTAWA – The troubled Chalk River nuclear reactor may not be up and running until April, further delaying the return to a full supply of isotopes for vital medical tests. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. says it had hoped to have repairs done by March, but work is moving more slowly than expected. It says if there are more “challenges,” the repair will be delayed. Even after the work is completed, it’s a complex, 19-stage process to get the Ontario reactor up and running at full power.

The first isotopes will be ready 10 days after the system starts up. Before a pin-point radioactive water leak was discovered last May, the reactor had been producing about a third of the world’s supply of medical isotopes. The isotopes are vital in diagnosing some cancers and heart problems. Since the 52-year-old Chalk River system closed, other reactors around the world have had to pick up the slack. One of those fill-in reactors is slated to shut down for repairs in February, leaving doctors worried about finding isotopes. Provinces are also concerned about extra costs tied to pricier, imported isotopes. Quebec Health Minister Yves Bolduc has estimated the crisis has so far cost his province $10 million. The provinces want the federal government to foot the bill, but Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq hasn’t committed herself to compensation.


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