AECL aborts reactor development

MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO - Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. is scrapping development of its two new MAPLE medical-isotope reactors at its Chalk River, Ont., laboratories.

The 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,” the federal Crown corporation said.

The MAPLE reactors, described as the first in the world dedicated entirely to medical isotope production, were intended to be capable of supplying the entire global demand for molybdenum-99, iodine-131, iodine-125 and xenon-133.

AECL said the decision to abort them “will not impact the current supply of medical isotopes.”

It said contracts with MDS Nordion provide for production to continue at AECL's existing National Research Universal reactor in Chalk River.

“We are making the right business decision given the circumstances,” AECL president Hugh MacDiarmid said.

“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 NRU reactor has an operating licence from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission valid through October, 2011, and AECL said it will work with the commission and MDS Nordion to continue production beyond that date.

“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,” Mr. MacDiarmid stated.

“AECL is committed to supplying medical isotopes from NRU in a safe and reliable manner.”


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