* AECL liability rises by C$2.4 bln to C$6 bln
* Will be booked in fiscal year ending March 31
* Liability reflects nuclear decommissioning, waste management
OTTAWA, March 20 (Reuters) - The Canadian budget gap for the current fiscal year will be C$2.4 billion ($2.3 billion) higher than expected because of higher liability estimated by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) reflecting indirect costs of its Chalk River research reactor.
The nuclear agency issued a statement late on Tuesday to say it was raising the estimate of its liability for nuclear decommissioning and waste management by two-thirds to about C$6 billion from C$3.6 billion.
The government had estimated in November that the deficit for the fiscal year that ends March 31 would be C$26 billion. The gap for April to December was only C$16.1 billion, leading at one time to the expectation that the full-year figure would come in less than the C$26 billion forecast.
But this will now be more difficult in light of the added AECL liability, which an unnamed government official said would be a one-time cost for the current fiscal year.
The reactor in Chalk River, Ontario, is Canada’s sole source for isotopes used in medical imaging. Production was shut down for safety reasons in 2007 and then again from May 2009 to August 2010. The closures caused a medical challenge and a political furor as the government scrambled to find isotope replacements internationally. The reactor is licensed to run until 2016.
Last month, Canada said it expected to be able to make enough medical isotopes through non-nuclear methods by 2016 to replace those now produced by the reactor.