OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper is urging Canada’s beleaguered nuclear agency to pick up the pace in repairing a leaky reactor at Chalk River, Ont., down until at least next spring.
Harper said he’s “disappointed” with the latest delay in returning the reactor to service, adding that Ottawa will continue to push Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to supply isotopes as soon as possible.
“We do hope there will be more action, more quickly, on the part of Atomic Energy of Canada,” he said Thursday in Kitchener, Ont.
AECL sparked a shortage of medical isotopes when it shut down the Chalk River reactor — which makes a third of the world’s supply — in May after finding a pinprick-sized radioactive water leak.
The shutdown was supposed to last a month, then three months, and then until the end of the year — before AECL revised its timeline again Wednesday.
It’s fallen to a handful of other reactors around the world built a half-century ago to supply the isotopes used to diagnose cancer and heart ailments.
A Dutch reactor, which also supplies a third of the world’s isotopes, had ramped up production until it was powered down last month for maintenance.
A smaller Belgian reactor — which normally makes just 10 per cent of the world’s isotopes — is shouldering the load until its Dutch counterpart is restarted this month.
But the Dutch reactor is scheduled to be shut down for six months starting in February — and there’s no guarantee the Belgian reactor is a long-term fix.