Friday, May 16, 2008

Chalk River: AECL Giving Up on Maple Reactors

Well, isn't THIS interesting...

AECL scraps development of isotope reactors

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. is scrapping development of its two new MAPLE medical-isotope reactors at its Chalk River, Ont., laboratories.

The decision "is based on a series of reviews that considered, among other things, the costs of further development, as well as the time frame and risks involved with continuing the project," the federal Crown corporation said Friday.

The MAPLE reactors, described as the first in the world dedicated entirely to medical isotope production, were intended to be capable of supplying the entire global demand for molybdenum-99, iodine-131, iodine-125 and xenon-133.

AECL said the decision to abort them "will not impact the current supply of medical isotopes."

It said contracts with MDS Nordion (TSX:MDS) provide for production to continue at AECL's existing National Research Universal reactor in Chalk River.

Wow. It's the right decision, of course. Aside from these reactors being years overdue and millions over budget, the fact is that they simply don't work and never will. Still, AECL had dug in its heels so deeply over the Maples that their admission of defeat now is pretty surprising. Conventional wisdom is that they want to focus all their efforts on getting the contract for the new Ontario power reactors.

Now we're back to square one, because the NRU still needs hundreds of millions of dollars worth of upgrades if it is to continue to function and produce medical isotopes.

12:10 - Gary Lunn is talking. A couple of reporters are asking him whether the government would be willing to cough up the 600 million the AG says the NRU needs, but he's dodging. Ah, there we go - he just brought up possible 'private sector funding options'. Sigh.

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