Scrap AECL!

From Gordon Edwards, following all the kerfluffle on the Chalk River scandal and the recent AECL announcement to abandon the MAPLE reactors (see below).

> From: Gordon Edwards
> Date: May 16, 2008 10:37:21 AM GMT-06:00
> To: Gordon Edwards
> Subject: AECL Abandons the MAPLE reactors
>
> Background
>
> In July 1996, the isotope marketing company MDS Nordion announced that it would invest $140 million to provide an assured supply of medical isotopes for the next 20 years by building two small reactors, MAPLE-1 and MAPLE-2, each 10 MW in size, dedicated solely to the production of medical isotopes. In the Journal of Nuclear Medicine it was pointed out at the time that this project “addresses an issue of considerable concern to many: the reliance of the nuclear medicine industry, particularly in North America, on a single, aging reactor” referring to the NRU reactor built at Chalk River in 1957.
>
> The MAPLE reactors were completed 8 years ago, but never produced radio-isotopes because of serious construction problems and design problems. The control rods tended to “stick”, the shutoff rods “jammed”, and to make matters worse the reactors behaved in a particularly dangerous fashion — whenever the power level was increased, the nuclear reaction tended to accelerate out of control. This behaviour was exactly the opposite of what the designers had planned for; in fact, all the safety studies for the MAPLE reactors were based on the assumption that whenever the power level was increased the nuclear reaction would tend to slow down, not speed up.
>
> Because of the failure of the MAPLE reactors to come on-line, the entire pro-duction of medical isotopes for MDS Nordion was dependent upon the NRU reactor, which had been scheduled to be retired (permanently shut down) by 2003. Meanwhile AECL was working to “fix the problems” with the MAPLE reactors; but years went by and the problems were not fixed.
>
> The isotope crisis of December 2007 was precipitated by the temporary shut-down of the geriatric NRU reactor (50 years old) because it had failed to meet a safety requirement which was one of its licence renewal conditions laid down by the regulatory body, the CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) about two years earlier. Work that should have been done earlier was not only not carried out, but the necessary equipment and preparations had not even been arranged. When a month-long shortage of medical isotopes was looming, the Government of Canada fired the Head of the CNSC and passed an emergency bill through the Parliament ordering the restart of the NRU reactor.
>
> Now AECL is abandoning the MAPLE reactors altogether. After more than $600 million and 17 years of effort, the entire enterprise turns out to be a complete waste of time and money….
>
> Gordon Edwards
>
> =====================
>
> AECL to Discontinue Development of the MAPLE Reactors
>
> Production of Medical Isotopes to be Maintained through NRU Reactor
>
> Mississauga, 2008 May 16 — Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) is announcing that, after careful review and analysis, it will discontinue development work of the MAPLE reactors located at its Chalk River Laboratories, effective immediately.
>
> This 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.
>
> “We are making the right business decision given the circumstances,” stated AECL’s President and Chief Executive Officer Hugh MacDiarmid. “This was a difficult choice given the tremendous efforts expended by our people on development of the MAPLE reactors. Nevertheless, our Board of Directors and senior management have concluded that it is no longer feasible to complete the commissioning and start-up of the reactors.”
>
> The decision to discontinue development of the MAPLE reactors will not impact the current supply of medical isotopes as commercial agreements between MDS Nordion and AECL provide for isotope production to continue through AECL’s National Research Universal reactor (NRU) and associated facilities in Chalk River. NRU currently has an operating site licence from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) that is valid until October 31, 2011. AECL will work closely with CNSC and MDS Nordion on the requirements for continued production beyond that date.
>
> Mr. MacDiarmid added, “We recognize the important role that NRU plays in the supply and delivery of medical isotopes to patients in North America and around the world. AECL is committed to supplying medical isotopes from NRU in a safe and reliable manner.”
>
> For further information:
>
> Dale Coffin
> Director, Corporate Communications
> Atomic Energy of Canada Limited
> (905) 403-7457

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