Ont. nuclear reactor running despite 'significant' leak
OTTAWA - The nuclear reactor that is the source of more than half of the world's medical isotopes was back to full production Monday, even as engineers and technicians at the Chalk River, Ont., facility were making plans to fix a "significant" leak in one of the key pieces of machinery that is part of the reactor's core.
"The reactor is operating normally and safely," said Bill Pilkington, chief nuclear officer for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the Crown corporation that operates the National Research Universal reactor at Chalk River.
...The leak in the NRU's reactor circuit first showed up several months ago, an AECL official said. The reactor circuit is a massive metal vessel that surrounds the reactor's core, which itself occupies an area about three metres in diameter.
Canwest News Service has learned that the hole in the tank is growing and is now about six centimetres wide. Sources say about 7,000 litres of water a day are leaking out.
The leaking water is not radioactive and is being recycled back into the tank.
I feel so much better. Although when I showed this story to my husband (who used to be a physics engineering student with a part time job at the accelerator lab at McMaster) said, "It's not radioactive yet". Something to do with contamination of de-ionized water...?
In the interests of fairness, I must give a tip of the hat to our new Minister of Natural Resources for the actions she is reportedly taking on the AECL/Chalk River front.
Government officials and AECL, for example, are working on a process to extend the operating licence of the NRU past 2011. That process began under Raitt's predecessor, Gary Lunn.
But Raitt is embarking on her own initiatives, as well.
At Canada's request, an international meeting of governments and industry will take place in Paris in January. The meeting will focus on the security of isotope supply.
"This is a global issue which warrants a global response, and I will ensure that Canada plays a leadership role in the planned discussions," Raitt said in a statement.
She has also ordered an internal review of government-funded research to see if there are alternative methods to conventional medical isotope production.
Finally, Raitt and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq have asked their departmental officials to assess alternative medical and diagnostic procedures that could alleviate demand for medical isotopes.
"Ensuring that the Canadian medical community receives a consistent and reliable supply of medical isotopes has been of critical importance to me," Raitt said.
(cross-posted from HaltonWatch)