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[cdn-nucl-l] " Experts urge government to replace nuclear reactor "
Experts urge government to replace nuclear reactor
DAVID AKIN, Canwest News Service, 29 July 2008
A panel of experts says the federal government needs to find a replacement
as fast as possible for the aging nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ont., that
produces more than half of the world's medical isotopes, a vital resource
used to diagnose and treat cancer and other diseases.
"Canada needs reactors that are designed to expand their production
capabilities quickly in response to an emergency," the panel says in a
report it submitted to federal Health Minister Tony Clement.
Clement convened the 10-member panel of medical experts in December shortly
after the Chalk River reactor was shut down by its operator, Atomic Energy
of Canada Ltd. (AECL), because it believed it could not meet safety
standards administered by the federal regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety
The shutdown sparked a global medical crisis and forced Parliament to take
the extraordinary step of over-ruling the safety commission to allow AECL to
start up the reactor.
The panel, whose primary concern as it examined the crisis and its aftermath
was patient care, makes several recommendations to avoid shortages of
medical isotopes and to better handle any crisis if the supply of isotopes
is again interrupted.
Avoiding a crisis altogether, the panel believes, starts with a
made-in-Canada solution to replace or augment the supply of isotopes
produced at the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor in Chalk River,
just west of Ottawa.
The NRU went into service in 1957 and is the world's oldest nuclear reactor.
Though the NRU is licensed to operate to 2011, neither AECL nor the federal
government has sketched out any long-term plan to find an alternative to the