The Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) held its annual conference in Ottawa in February. It was the most optimistic gathering in years. In one sense, this was only natural.
After all, the organization was celebrating its 60th anniversary and it was the largest gathering ever, with over 900 delegates (100 of them students) and about 40 exhibitor booths. More substantively, there were three fundamental reasons for the optimism — including the prospect of a promising new product line.
First, many of the problems that bedevilled the nuclear industry in years past have essentially been resolved. The restructuring of Canada’s nuclear Crown corporation, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), is now complete.
Its reactor division was privatized to SNC-Lavalin (and is now called CANDU Energy), and the research and development division is operating under a model where AECL owns the facilities and is responsible for legacy waste, while a private company, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, runs the day-to-day operations.
Periodic shortages of medical isotopes — caused by temporary shutdowns of the aging reactor at Chalk River, Ontario — have been addressed through a decentralized means of production, using different types of research facilities across the country. The delays and cost overruns in the refurbishment of the Point Lepreau reactor in New Brunswick are now in the past; today, Point Lepreau is running well.