Questions to AECL

Note: The National Academies have been asked by the United States Government to evaluate the feasibility (including costs) of eliminating HEU use in medical isotope production; the impacts of such elimination on the reliability of medical isotope supply; and the progress being made by the Department of Energy and others to eliminate HEU use in research reactors, targets, and medical isotope production facilities. The following questions to AECL were developed by the National Academies Committee on Medical Isotope Production without Highly Enriched Uranium. These questions are designed to elicit the information the committee needs to develop a complete and accurate report on medical isotope production to the United States Government,

  1. NRU life extension and potential impacts on Mo-99 production: AECL has announced plans to extend the operation of the NRU reactor from 2011 to 2016. The committee was told by Natural Resources Canada staff that this extension would involve “hundreds of millions” of dollars of work, (a) What replacements of major equipment or refurbishment does AECL anticipate will be necessary for NRU life extension? Is replacement of the calandria included in the planned work? (b) Can this work be carried out without an extended shutdown of NRU? (c) What impacts, if any, will this life extension work have on Mo-99 production at Chalk River? (d) How will AECL ensure that there are no supply disruptions while this life extension work is carried out?

  2. Progress in understanding the positive coefficient of reactivity in the Maple Reactors: AECL announced in May 2008 that it was discontinuing development work on the Maple Reactors: (a) What progress had AECL made in understanding the coefficient of reactivity in the Maple Reactor prior to this announcement? Specifically, what tests had been run and data collected? (b) Was the decision to discontinue development work based on a technical judgment that the cause of the positive coefficient of reactivity was unlikely to he understood or fixed?

  3. Plans for the Dedicated Isotope Facility: (a) What are AECL’s plans for the Maple Reactors and New Processing Facility (e.g., mothball them, demolish them, sell them)? (b) Does AECL have any plans/interest in using the New Processing Facility for future Mo-99 production? (c) Has AECL carried out any studies or sought any advice on the feasibility of replacing the Maple reactor cores? If so, how much time would be required to design, build, install, and test new cores? (d) Would AECL consider an offer from an outside party to operate the Maples and New Processing Facility? (e) Could an outside party legally operate such facilities on the Chalk River Site?

  4. Long-term Mo-99 supplies from Chalk River: The press has reported that it is MDS’ position that AECL is obliged to provide Mo-99 for 40 years to meet its contract obligations. If AECL agrees, how will it acquire Mo-99 after the NRU reactor is shut down?

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