Friday, May 16, 2008

A Rough Day in Canadian Nuclear History

We normally focus on economics, socionomics and geopolitics here - with a dash of nuclear power and nuclear proliferation postings thrown in for good measure. This is a niche story a little outside the normal area we cover, but I wanted to draw your attention to it, plus it hits close to home for me since I play in the radioisotope production sandbox (down in the U.S., not up in Canada).

Canada pulls plug on costly medical reactor plan
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, May 16 (Reuters) - Canada said on Friday it was scrapping a nuclear reactor project designed to produce medical radioisotopes, a move that means half the world's supply will be made by a 50-year-old reactor that was temporarily shut down for safety reasons last year.

The Canadian Association of Nuclear Medicine said the announcement was "a major concern" and said Ottawa had to ensure it could access back-up supplies...

That is a huge blow to AECL. I am shocked that it came to this. They have had problems with the design (an issue with an unexpected positive reactivity coefficient popping up during operation - that's bad) but I had assumed that the engineers would have figured out the problem and proposed a fix. I was actually looking forward to reading the paper on it.

This is one of those things that probably won't affect you directly right now, but AECL is a major supplier to the North America radioisotope market via Nordion. They make a lot of Mo-99, which is the parent of Tc-99m, which is used, oh, about 35,000 times per week in the U.S. and the Canadians are the only supplier in North America. The U.S. hasn't had commercial production capability of Mo-99 for a decade and a half.

If you hear about more isotope supply issues, or if a terrorist attack causes the borders to get sealed, you can expect shortages of certain types of analysis and diagnosis procedures here in the U.S.

As usual, for those that like to follow along in the world of nuclear, I suggest checking out the following sites on a regular basis:

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