Canada medical reactor shutdown may be extended

Thu Jun 4, 2009 4:55pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - An aging Canadian nuclear reactor that makes a third of the world's medical isotopes may have to be shut down for longer than the three months initially forecast, the operator said on Thursday.

The Chalk River reactor in eastern Ontario, run by government-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, was taken out of service in May after it was discovered to be leaking a small amount of heavy water.

AECL officials said on Thursday that close examination of the reactor had discovered corrosion in several places and said there was no immediate or simple solution. AECL is now developing a plan on how to carry out the repairs.

"Three months is probably -- just judgmental -- looking optimistic today, but we're very, very reluctant to give any further guidance until we have our (plan)," AECL Chief Executive Hugh MacDiarmid told the House of Commons natural resources committee.

Chalk River produces most of the isotopes distributed by MDS Nordion, a subsidiary of Canadian health sciences company MDS Inc.

The isotopes -- used in medical tests and cancer treatments -- are now in increasingly short supply.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)

<p>Canada's Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt leaves a news conference in Ottawa May 28, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>