Canada may divide its nuclear agency into two units in a bid to resolve the global shortage of medical isotopes, which are used for medical imaging to diagnose cancer and heart disease, Canada's natural resources minister has said.
Lisa Raitt on Friday said the government would likely separate state-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd into a research division that includes the medical isotopes reactor and another division for the pressurised heavy water reactors that generate electric power.
The government has hired investment bankers N M Rothschild & Sons to develop a restructuring plan for AECL, Raitt said, and they are scheduled to report back to her in the next few months.
The National Research Universal Reactor in Chalk River, Ontario, is an ageing Canadian reactor that makes about a third of the global supply of medical isotopes. It was shut down in May because of a heavy water leak and is expected to remain idled into March.
The shutdown sparked a worldwide shortage of radioactive isotopes, which are injected into patients so radiologists can pinpoint areas of higher radiation and spot changes in the body to enable them to make more accurate diagnoses.