The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has approved reactivation of the Chalk River (Ontario) nuclear reactor, paving the way for increased availability of molybdenum-99, a uranium processing byproduct used to produce a medical isotope used in most imaging procedures.
The reactor, which shut down in May 2009 because of a heavy water leak, is expected to resume production by late July, according to Atomic Energy of Canada, the company that runs the facility. In its decision memo, the commission said Atomic Energy of Canada had completed required repairs to the thinning walls that were the source of the leak, and that the company “is qualified to carry out the activities that will be permitted under its current operating license,” which is valid until October 2011. Under the approval agreement, Atomic Energy of Canada will be required to provide updates every six months on the effectiveness of its correctional plan. The commission also will require annual in-service inspections of the Chalk River facility.
Prior to going offline, Chalk River produced roughly half of the U.S. supply for molybdenum-99. The closure, coupled with temporary shutdowns of other nuclear facilities across the globe, has caused an ongoing, worldwide shortage of the medical isotope, reducing access to medical imaging procedures.