McMaster to upgrade research reactor

01 June 2009

McMaster University will receive C$22 million ($20 million) in funding from the Canadian and Ontarian governments for upgrading its research reactor, thereby increasing commercial production of medical and industrial radioisotopes.

McMaster reactor
McMaster's 50-year-old research reactor (Image: McMaster)
Federal industry minister Tony Clement and Ontario minister of government services Ted McMeekin announced the C$22 million in infrastructure funding for the 50-year-old reactor during a visit to McMaster last week. The federal government and provincial government will each provide C$11 million. The investment has been made under Canada's two-year, C$2 billion ($1.8 billion) Knowledge Infrastructure Program, itself part of the wider C$12 billion infrastructure investment plan across the country.
Clement commented: "This investment in McMaster University will provide a significant short-term economic stimulus to the Hamilton area and will make a difference in the lives of many people in the region." He added, "The government of Canada is investing in innovation to create jobs, to help our economy recover quickly and to improve the quality of life for Canadians."
In a statement, McMaster University said, "As Canada's only nuclear reactor outside of Chalk River capable of producing medical isotopes, the funding will be used to upgrade McMaster's physical infrastructure to expand Canada's isotope research and production capacity, to enhance research activities and train personnel for the nuclear industry and health care sectors."
It added, "The funding will also provide for the renovation and upgrade to the Nuclear Research building, to accommodate and support new laboratories, research space and education for new faculty members, researchers and graduate students."
Peter George, president of McMaster said: "McMaster is Canada's nuclear university. This funding announcement is another example of the federal government's continued support for science and technology and the important role McMaster plays in the training of the next generation of scientists and engineers in the nuclear power and medicine industries."
The investment announcement comes at a time when Canada and the rest of the world faces a shortage of medical isotopes following the extended shutdown of the NRU reactor at Chalk River, which provides a large share of the world's medical isotopes, to repair a minor leak. The leak was discovered in mid-May, but plant owner and operator Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) has said that the reactor could be out of service for up to three months whilst repairs are made.
Clement told CBC News that McMaster's application for the funding to upgrade its reactor was received "several weeks ago, I guess maybe even a couple of months ago." He added, "This is a parallel process independent of the status with things at Chalk River, but I think it does send a message out that we can be part of the solution here in Canada, here at this site at McMaster on an ongoing and future basis."


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