Canada reactor shutdown hitting medical tests

Fri Dec 7, 2007 5:25pm EST
 
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TORONTO (Reuters) - The shutdown of a Canadian reactor that produces key radioisotopes for nuclear medicine, is already beginning to have an impact on hospital services, the head of a Canadian medical association said on Friday.

"In my own hospital, yesterday, I was unable to do tests looking for blood clots in the lung because the isotope was not available," Christopher O'Brien, president of the Ontario Association of Nuclear Medicine said.

O'Brien also said that the medical community was not advised of the shutdown.

"We had no idea until our supplier told us we have no isotopes," he said.

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd said earlier this week that its National Research Universal reactor at Chalk River in eastern Ontario would be out of commission longer than expected.

The reactor, which supplies more than two-thirds of the world's radioisotopes, will remain shut down until early to mid-January to install safety-related equipment, after shutting for scheduled maintenance in November.

It was originally expected to be back at normal production by mid-December.

The Ontario Association of Nuclear Medicine said the delay could affect tens of thousands of medical tests across North America. It estimated that about 50,000 Canadians and 160,000 Americans would be forced to have services postponed for each month the reactor remains shut down.

Barclay Howden, director general of the directorate of nuclear cycle and facilities regulation at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, said on Friday that the work was very important from a nuclear safety standpoint and had to be done.   Continued...