AECL reaffirms intention to reopen NRU in Q1 2010

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Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) reaffirmed the reopening of the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor in Chalk River, Ontario, in the first quarter of 2010, despite widespread speculation that it would not be able to honor that timeline.

In its Aug. 26 announcement, AECL said that the non-destructive examination (NDE) inspections of the NRU reactor using the Mark II tool are now complete. The Mark II tool inspected those areas of the reactor vessel that were previously inaccessible.

The organization said its NDE team has begun the third stage of exams, beginning with training on a tool for vertical inspection. However, it maintains that “NDE activities remain on schedule.”

Work continues with vendors on proving repair tooling designs and fabrication of the equipment.

“Testing of the repair processes and tools continue using the full height NRU mock-up in the former NRX facility at Chalk River Laboratories,” AECL said.

The organization said that in trying to determine the duration of the shutdown, it is relying on the most up-to-date analysis of the inspection data, progress on repair strategies and critical path requirements for restart after an extended shutdown. The application of a band weld build-up technique and the number of identified repair sites, AECL said, indicates the NRU will return to service during the first quarter of 2010.

The announcement affirming the reopening of the NRU reactor may help alleviate fears over a global shortage of medical isotopes, in particular because the High Flux Reactor (HRF) in Petten, Netherlands, which produces approximately 30 percent of the world's supply of medical isotopes, is expected to be taken offline in early 2010 to repair a leak.

AECL stated that further guidance on a return to service date will be provided when more information becomes available.