In the February 6 announcement, Minister of Natural Resources Greg Rickford said the decision is intended to help support global medical isotope demand in case of unexpected shortages. Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) subsidiary Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) operates the reactor and would begin decommissioning it after March 31, 2018.
The NRU reactor was scheduled to close on October 31, 2016. An application to extend NRU's operating license remains subject to approval by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
In 2010, the Canadian government announced a plan to phase out Mo-99 production at the 58-year-old facility over the following six years, which would give existing and new facilities time to meet global demand for the medical isotope. Canada has invested some $60 million in scientific research and the development of alternative sources of isotope supply.
Most recently, an interdisciplinary research team confirmed that its technology can now produce sufficient quantities of the isotope technetium-99m in a six-hour production run to satisfy demand for 500 nuclear medicine scans.
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