Canada getting out of isotope production

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday that Canada will eventually stop producing medical isotopes, as the world struggles with the recent shutdown of its aging reactor that makes a large portion of the global supply.

"We anticipate Canada will be out of the business," Harper said at a news conference.

The Globe and Mail reported that Prime Minister's comments confirmed speculation the federal government's decision to split up and sell off government-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) was a prelude to shut down.

The federal government of Canada is planning to sell AECL's nuclear reactor business to the private sector, in a bid to boost global sales of its CANDU reactors. This will also result in private sector management for the facility at Chalk River, Ontario.

The Chalk River reactor makes about a third of the world supply of medical isotopes, while a Dutch reactor contributes another third, with lesser amounts coming from reactors in France, Belgium and South Africa. However, Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt has said an Australian reactor will start making isotopes sooner than expected.

Harper said he plans to keep the Chalk River reactor running as often as possible, while working with other countries and provinces to develop alternative sources of treatment, Globe and Mail reported.