Chalk River reactor is back online

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Results from a high-speed SPECT camera are comparable to those of conventional SPECT, but with greatly reduced imaging time, in a 46-year-old woman.

The Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) has reported that the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor at Chalk River Laboratories in Chalk River, Ontario--the world's largest producer of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99)--can again begin to create medical isotopes.

After a 15-month shutdown and a series of delays, the AECL said it has concluded low-power testing on the NRU reactor, which can now operate at high power.

The initial shutdown on May 14, 2009, occurred due to a loss of electrical power in eastern Ontario and western Quebec, which led to a discovery of a leak.

The aging reactor has endured a series of expensive shutdowns, due to repairs over the past several years, seriously hindering the global production and distribution of Mo-99, leading the Canadian government to decide to break up and sell its stake in the NRU reactor.

The uncertain fate of NRU and the aging High Flux Reactor in Petten, the Netherlands, has caused the U.S. to look for domestic alternatives source to the widely used radioisotope. The American Medical Production Act of 2009, which passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 400-17, is currently held up in the Senate by Sen. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., much to the dismay of legislators and the molecular imaging community.