Greg Rickford Announces Extension of Operations for NRU

Minister Greg Rickford
Minister Greg Rickford
Minister Greg Rickford
Minister Greg Rickford

OTTAWA – TECHNOLOGY – Greg Rickford, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, today announced the Government of Canada’s decision to support the extension of the operations of the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor from October 31, 2016, until March 31, 2018. The NRU is operated by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Ltd. (CNL), a subsidiary of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.

“Since announcing our plans to restructure our nuclear laboratories, our government has acted responsibly to ensure the security of supply of medical isotopes. Our support for this extension demonstrates our ongoing commitment to a responsible transition of our laboratories that supports global medical isotope supply,” stated Minister Rickford.

Today’s announcement of the extension of the NRU is designed to help support global medical isotope demand between 2016 and 2018 in the unexpected circumstances of shortages, and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories will now begin decommissioning the NRU after March 31, 2018.

An application to extend the operating license of the NRU will be subject to approval by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Canada’s independent nuclear regulator.

In 2010, the Government of Canada announced its decision to cease the routine production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) from the NRU in 2016 and is acting responsibly to ensure the security of supply of medical isotopes.

Phasing out production over six years has allowed producers around the world to adjust accordingly. The global market has been diversifying, and it is now projected that under normal conditions global supply will remain sufficient to meet demand.

The Government of Canada’s strategy has included a $60-million investment to significantly advance scientific research and the development of alternative sources of isotope supply. Recent announcements by TRIUMF, Prairie Isotope Production Enterprise and the University of Alberta, including the Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke, have confirmed successful milestones toward commercialization.

CNL will continue to advance world-class nuclear science and technology, providing valuable expertise to government and industry. The restructuring of AECL’s nuclear laboratories announced in 2009 is one of a number of important initiatives to establish a solid foundation for the future of Canada’s nuclear industry.

Recent initiatives include having invested another $325 million in the last five years modernizing facilities at the Chalk River Laboratories, updating nuclear liability legislation and continuing to explore partnerships enhancing nuclear innovation.

Quick Facts

  • The Government has invested $60 million in the development of alternative medical isotope technologies to diversify sources of supply with the goal of creating a commercially viable alternative to reactor-based supply beyond 2016.
  • The National Research Universal (NRU) reactor was brought into operation in 1957 at CNL’s Chalk River Laboratories in eastern Ontario.
  • Unexpected shutdowns of the NRU have resulted in significant costs to taxpayers, including a $114 million investment in 2009 to return it to service and an additional $351 million between 2008 and 2016 to ensure safe and reliable operations.
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