Canada’s Chalk River nuclear plant seeks five-year permit extension

Canada’s Chalk River nuclear plant ” the oldest operating reactor in the world ” can run safely until 2016, the country’s Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has been told.

The federal operating permit for Chalk River expires at the end of this month and events at Fukishima earlier this year have given Canadian authorities pause before granting an extension.

The CNSC is holding a two-day tribunal to determine whether to grant a further five-year licence to the plant, which is owned by Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) and houses the 53-year-old National Research Universal (NRU) medical isotope reactor.

In 2009 the NRU reactor was shut down for 15 months at a cost of $70m after it suffered a water leak.

Randy Lesco, AECL’s chief nuclear officer, told the tribunal: “This licence is vital to our success as Canada’s nuclear science technology laboratory.”

He stressed that the cooling system failure and release of radioactive materials at Fukushima could not be replicated at Chalk River.

“Our backup power supplies will operate, our facilities are capable of mitigating the impact of internal and external flood events and our safety assumptions for a similar event remain valid. The overall conclusion is that our site is well prepared in the event of an emergency. More specifically, there are no safety issues requiring immediate corrective actions.”

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