Chalk River licensed for five more years

28 October 2011

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) announced on 27 October its decision to renew the operating licence of the Chalk River Laboratory for another five years. The new expiry date is 31 October 2016. Operated by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), Chalk River Laboratory is a national hub of nuclear research and development, and is home to the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor which provides 40% of the world's supply of the medical isotope molybdenum-99. The 54-year-old reactor suffered serious problems in 2009 which saw it shut down for 15 months, causing widespread concern over the availability of the isotope. While in principle the decision allows for an extension to the life of NRU, operation remains contingent on the results of licensed safety requirements, one such being a reactor vessel inspection report CNSC expects to receive from AECL by February 2012. The renewal decision also incorporates the authorisation of activities related to the Dedicated Isotope Facility – two MAPLE class reactors which were originally constructed to replace NRU, but abandoned in 2008 after major technical problems were encountered during commissioning. In making the decision, the CNSC took into account opinions presented during two public hearings; one held in Ottawa in June, the other in Chalk River in October.

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