box10.gif (1299 bytes)







Nuclear medicine

Saskatchewan pitches Ottawa for nuclear reactor

REGINA – Saskatchewan has made a formal bid to the federal government to build a nuclear reactor that would produce a new supply of medical isotopes and help alleviate the global shortage.

A 20-megawatt research reactor at the University of Saskatchewan would cost between $500 million and $750 million to construct and $45 million to $70 million annually to operate, according to a proposal delivered to the federal government.

The plan put forward by the university and provincial government calls for the federal government to pick up 75 percent of the construction costs, with the province paying for the remainder.

Saskatchewan also wants the federal government to pay 60 percent of the operating costs, with the province covering 25 percent and the remainder coming from isotope sales and industrial science.

The report says the reactor – dubbed the Canadian Neutron Source – could be in place and operating by 2016, to coincide with the planned permanent shutdown of the aging National Research Universal reactor at Chalk River, Ont., one of the world’s major sources of medical isotopes used for diagnosis and treatment of many illnesses.

The reactor would have an initial goal of creating four times Canada’s requirement for the Mo-99 isotope, allowing it to supply the export market as well.

The reactor also would create neutron beams for the use of researchers exploring the property of materials down to the atomic level.

The report estimates the direct and indirect economic spin-off from construction of the reactor at somewhere between $314 million and $471 million. And while the facility would not turn a profit on isotope production and nuclear research, the operation of the facility would have a direct and indirect economic impact of $34 million to $53 million.

Saskatchewan’s sales pitch is based around a research reactor’s synergies with the U of S – currently attempting to organize an Institute for Nuclear Studies – and the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, located on campus.

As well, the report touts the willingness of the Saskatchewan Party government, which is attempting to “add value” to the province’s world-leading supply of uranium, to invest in the project.

The report says the reactor complements, rather than competes with, proposals from the University of British Columbia and Winnipeg that would see isotope production from particle accelerators.

Posted Aug. 13/09.