Chalk River Nuclear Generating Station in 1958, from CBC documentary Here & There
65 years ago, on November 3, 1957, the Chalk River Nuclear Generating Station in Ontario was commissioned. Canada then takes great pride in this fruit of several years of research and experimentation. However, the nuclear complex will experience several controversies.
In 1952, Atomic Energy of Canada was incorporated as a Crown corporation to take charge of the Chalk River nuclear research project.
A few years earlier, Chalk River was the site of the first operational nuclear reactor outside the United States. The Zeep experimental reactor was commissioned on September 5, 1945, a month after the atomic bombs fell on Japan. However, its vocation was strictly civilian.
The experimental Zeep reactor paved the way for the Chalk River power plant project, which was inaugurated in 1957. Developed in its laboratories, the NRX nuclear reactor is then among the most powerful in the world.
Raw visual of the Chalk River site with facilities and workers
Shot in 1979, these images show us Chalk River in its heyday. The complex is not intended simply for the production of energy, but also for research, in particular in nuclear medicine. It will develop medical isotopes, used in hospitals all over the world.Enlarge image
Scientist at work at Chalk River Generating Station in 1958, from the documentary Here & There from the CBC
In the 90s, nuclear became less and less popular. CANDU reactors undermine Atomic Energy Canada: controversial foreign sales, human errors and heavy financial losses.
The Conservative government of Brian Mulroney launched the process of privatizing Atomic Energy Canada in 1988. The Liberals in turn applied major financial cuts in the mid-1990s.
However, the aging Chalk River Generating Station needs a lot of maintenance and updating. From now on, it is the successive closures of the plant for safety, as for maintenance, that we will hear about.
In 2007, the shortage of medical isotopes, due to the temporary shutdown of the plant for safety reasons, made headlines. Then, in 2009, the nuclear reactor that supplies Canadian hospitals with medical isotopes had to shut down temporarily. This time it's due to a radioactive water leak.
Reporting by Catherine Kovacs on the shutdown of medical isotope production at Chalk River. The news bulletin is presented by Pascale Nadeau.
On the Téléjournal of May 20, 2009, we find ourselves in the middle of this isotope crisis. Journalist Catherine Kovacs profiles Chalk River, a major nuclear laboratory that produces half of the world's medical isotopes.
The days of the Chalk River reactor are now numbered and major work would be required to extend its useful life. The Canadian Association of Nuclear Medicine criticizes Canada for having lacked foresight.
Report by Daniel Thibeault on the announcement of the closure of the Chalk River nuclear reactor. The newscast is hosted by Pascale Nadeau.
Chalk River's future is sealed, as reported in this June 12, 2009 report. Stephen Harper's government announces that it will intends to abandon the production of medical isotopes.
“No more question for the government to invest billions of dollars in the powerful fund that has become Atomic Energy of Canada”, summarizes journalist Daniel Thibault at Téléjournal< /em>.
Beyond the closure of Chalk River, this decision also marks the end of a world-renowned research laboratory. A brain drain in the field is to be expected.
The Chalk River nuclear reactor was permanently shut down in 2016. This time, the nuclear medicine industry had been able to prepare for it, avoiding a shortage of medical isotopes.
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