Reopening Of Chalk River Nuclear Reactor
By Maryam Akhtar

March 31st, 2008

Last November the Canadian government forced the aging Chalk River nuclear reactor to reopen as it supplies 2/3 of the world’s radioisotopes. The reopening of the aging Chalk River nuclear reactor should be strongly opposed. The Canadian government should not be given the right to take away peoples’ right to live a cancer-free life. In fact, the need to use radioisotopes for cancer treatments would not have arisen if they had not been manufactured in the first place.
To begin with, health hazards caused by the mining of radioisotopes and the radiations released in their decaying process outweigh their benefits. It has been reported by an Atomic Energy Control Board spokesman that the medical effects of harmful alpha radiation indicate that the current limit level of exposure to alpha particles could result in the quadrupling of the risk of lung cancer deaths among uranium miners. This indication has been proven by the high death rates of uranium miners in countries such as Canada and Sweden. It is ironic that radioisotopes used in the medical industry to cure cancer produce harmful radiations that are themselves carcinogens (cancer causing substances). This instantly destroys the purpose of manufacturing nuclear medicines. For a disease that can be prevented by protecting the environment from harmful fission radiations, cures, in the production of which nuclear waste is produced, should not be formed.
Secondly, it is true that radioisotopes cannot be stored for too long due to their short life. However, it is also true that there is no suitable location where large amounts of fission products can be stored safely. Since the harmful decay of the shelf-stored isotopes will occur naturally at one point, the authorities should spend their time and the large sums of money ,that they were going to spend anyway, on manufacturing a suitable storage site that can be supervised easily for the decaying substances, rather than making use of the isotopes again and repeating the cycle of spreading a disease and manufacturing a cure for it. The cycle needs to be broken!
Also, the issue is highly controversial as by reopening its nuclear reactor, Canada is setting a bad example for other countries. If Canada can ignore nuclear safety rules why can’t Iran? It is unfair that one country should be able to use isotopes for a certain purpose while the other may not. The risk of nuclear isotopes falling into unwanted hands could be as high in Canada as in Iran. Apart from that, the replacement of the old nuclear reactors could have been reinforced by the Canadian government, but it decided to excuse the nuclear authorities for their inexcusable delay.
Finally, the effects of the nuclear reactors on the environment and the high maintenance and running costs also outweigh the benefits of using radioisotopes. After discovering that the reactors had been functioning without an emergency backup for cooling pumps for seventeen months, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission refused that the reactors should reopen. According to the commission, cooling pumps prevent overheating during disasters such as earthquakes. Therefore it is dangerous to add more unnecessary heat to the environment as it causes unwanted changes in the environment such as the drying up of rivers. The high costs of running the reactors also do not make up for the harm they bring to the environment.
In conclusion, the Chalk river nuclear reactor should not be reopened due to health hazards, environmental damages, high operational costs and socio-political issues outweighing the benefits of supplying 2/3 of the world’s radioisotopes so that a cure for a preventable disease can be formed.

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December 13, 2007.
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MacLeod, Ian. “Chalk River delays risk $3.7-billion medical isotope industry.”
August 12, 07.
Stewart-Robertson, Tristan. “Canada sets bad example with Chalk River reactor.” The
Canadian Press.
Swain, D. “Disadvantages of nuclear energy”. July 11, 2007.

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