Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A radioactive situation

With the Harper government's firing last year of nuclear regulatory boss Linda Keen for daring to put safety first and raise questions about the operation of the Chalk River nuclear reactor, it seems that economy and the production of medical isoptoes has won out over basic questions of nuclear safety.

Reading this article about a recent radioactive spill at Chalk River, which is operating at double its normal output to produce isotopes with a plant in Holland offline, I've lost track of just how many scary and concerning revelations are contained in this piece. But I'll try to list the major ones.

* A RADIOACTIVE SPILL HAS OCCURRED at the aging Chalk River nuclear reactor west of the capital after the facility was recently cranked up to double its normal output of medical isotopes, used in diagnosing and treating cancer, Sun Media has learned.

* Nonetheless, after a brief shutdown, the reactor has operate at full power, even though Chalk River officials admit they don't know what caused the leak, and say it could happen again.

* Documents indicate officials at Atomic Energy took four days to report the spill to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

* Even then, the spill proved to be five times larger than what the officials initially reported.

* They didn't go out of their way to inform the public, either. A news release about the brief shutdown of the reactor in December made no mention of a spill, only "unanticipated technical challenges."

* Meanwhile, another part of the reactor has sprung a water leak from a six centimetre crack in a weld. That leak has still not been repaired since it was first reported more than six weeks ago.

* Atomic energy spokesman Dale Coffin says the crack in the seam could require up to a month of work to repair, "but right now our schedule doesn't allow us to do that."
When it comes to nuclear reactors, isn't it sensible to err on the side of safety? All I can say is, I wouldn't want to live near Chalk River.

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1 comment:

JimBobby said...

Whooee! Business as usual in the nuke industry. Delay any reports of leaks. Downplay the severity of the leak, even if that means lying. Gradually release the full details but only if absolutely necessary. Tap the public purse for more handouts for an untenable industry.

Don't worry. They're only dumping radioactive water into the Ottawa River.