More Troubles At Chalk River

January 29th, 2009 by Potato

From today’s Globe and Mail:

Two recent leaks at the aging Canadian nuclear reactor that produces most of the world’s medical isotopes have heightened concerns about the unit’s safety – and the willingness of officials to raise a flag when things go wrong.

A small amount of radioactive tritium was released into the air, and about 50 kilograms of heavy water spilled into the sump below the reactor. “There was never any harm or impact to the employees or the community,” Mr. Coffin said.

“Of course, is the nuclear safety commission going to shut down that reactor for safety after what happened a year ago?” asked Mr. Bennett. “The people responsible for safety are afraid to shut it down because the last time they held up production, their president got fired.”

[emphasis mine].

This is a fairly minor issue at Chalk river, at least about as minor as you can get when you’re talking about a five decade old nuclear reactor. Things are probably still safe enough to continue Moly-99 production, for now. But the fact is Stephen Harper’s inept partisan ham-handedness last year has hurt the ability of the CNSC to do its job, and hurt the public’s perception of nuclear safety in Canada.

Hey, speaking of ancient reactors critical to nuclear medicine procedures all over the world, wouldn’t that be a great way to spend a few billion dollars to stimulate the economy? [Ok, actually it wouldn’t really help much because it would take years before any bulk construction was done, unless they just tried the same old MAPLE or NRU design again, but nonetheless, there’s still no succession plan in place…]

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