You’ve heard of the song that never ends, haven’t you? Well, the Chalk River Scandal seems to be of a similar vein. MDS Nordion, the company that manufactured a medical isotope crisis — which was not the crisis the Harperites played it up to be — is now bringing further American-style antics to Canada. It is suing the Canadian government.
How convenient for the nuke industry! Why, now we’ll have to go ahead and build more reactors, won’t we?!? Talk about stupid!
Federal nuclear operator sued for $1.6 billion
Company needs medical isotopes. MDS signed contract for40-year supply that is jeopardized by agency’s decisions.
DAVID AKIN, Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, July 10 2008
Life sciences firm MDS Inc. is suing the federal government and one of its crown corporations, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., for $1.6 billion, saying decisions AECL made in the spring about the future of the troubled Chalk River, Ont., nuclear reactor facility threaten MDS’s business.
It has also asked for a court-backed arbitration order which it says would compel AECL to live up to an agreement it said it signed in 2006 with the crown corporation to secure a 40-year supply of isotopes, which are used to treat and diagnose cancer and other diseases.
An MDS unit, MDS Nordion, markets and distributes the isotopes, which are made at AECL’s Chalk River Nuclear Laboratory, northwest of Ottawa. “We have had to resort to taking these steps to protect the interests of patients, the nuclear medicine community, our shareholders and our customers,” MDS chief executive Stephen DeFalco said.
“We regret that MDS Nordion has decided to pursue litigation,” Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn said in a statement. “Neither the government nor AECL accept the allegations made (and) we will be taking steps to defend AECL and the Crown.” Lunn was not available for an interview.
AECL said it “believes that it has met and continues to meet its obligations under its agreements with MDS Nordion.
AECL will therefore vigorously defend both the arbitration and the civil action.”
In May, AECL, with Lunn’s backing, shelved a project to replace the aging National Research Universal Reactor (NRU) in Chalk River that produces the isotopes. The reactor went into service in 1957, making it the world’s oldest.
AECL shut down the reactor late last year over safety concerns voiced by the federal nuclear safety regulator. That sparked a medical and political crisis because it produces about half of the world’s medical isotopes.
The shutdown renewed a focus on AECL’s plans to find a backup for the reactor. The backup plan had included the construction of a pair of new reactors, known as MAPLE 1 and MAPLE 2.
MDS had signed a deal with AECL in 1996 to help develop and build the reactors, which were to be active by 2000.
The project was plagued with regulatory and technical problems. Millions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule, AECL pulled the plug in May.
The 50-year-old NRU is licensed to operate until 2011 and AECL says it is operating safety and efficiently.
MDS said it invested more than $350 million in the MAPLES project, but the decision to shutter the project was made “without prior notice to or (in) consultation with MDS.”
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008