Canada regulator, nuke firm blasted over isotopes

Mon Jul 28, 2008 2:24pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Widespread sloppiness at both Canada's nuclear regulator and government-owned Atomic Energy Canada Ltd prompted the damaging closure of a reactor which made medical radioisotopes, a report said on Monday.

AECL's 50-year-old Chalk River reactor -- which produces more than two-thirds of the global supply -- was shut down for three weeks late last year, quickly triggering shortages.

AECL's chairman quit in December, and in January, Ottawa fired the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

A damning report by three independent consultants said officials from AECL and the commission often ignored standard procedures that would have identified the problem earlier.

"This culture of informality was considered a significant and fundamental flaw in both organizations' methods of operation and contributed to a series of misunderstandings," said the 119-page report.

"It became clear there were several basic processes which were flawed, within both AECL and CNSC," it added.

Communications between the two were so bad that AECL did not make crucial safety improvements while the regulator did not check they had been carried out.

The isotopes, when injected into the body, give off radiation that can be seen by a camera to diagnose cancer, heart disease and other medical conditions.   Continued...

<p>A sign is seen outside the reactor at the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) nuclear facility in Chalk River, Ontario in this December 19, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>