Friday, January 18, 2008

The Lights at Night, Are Big and Bright ......

Getting to the Premier Ministre and the Ottawa fun crew.

It didn't take the Conservatives long to get 'progressive' and wind-up in a new year stink. This time about Atomic Generation and medical isotopes. It seems that sometime last year the oldest Atomic generator in Canada at Chalk River, near Ottawa, had one of two pumps on the cooling system fail.

If you're familiar with the CANDU nuclear generating design you'll know that they operate on a dual water system - heavy water is used to cool the reactor and in turn is used to heat water for steam. You'll also know it has a good safety reputation. The pump was a redundant part of the fail safe system.

One of the reasons for the safety record is, perhaps, the fact that the regulatory body looking after atomic power - the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC ), exists independent of the operator, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) a crown corporation, and, theoretically, the government. Such has been the case since Canada's atomic power systems first developed.

When apprised of the situation the NRC ordered the pump repaired. The head of the AEC ignored the work order. Until in December the NRC ordered the reactor shut down. The fur didn't start to fly until hospitals started to complain that they were running out of medical isotopes used in a variety of procedures. Chalk River is the major supplier of such isotopes.

After a quick study, and at the behest of the new head man at AECL, who also turns out to be a PC party 'bagman', the Minister of Energy overruled the NRC's safety concerns and ordered the plant back into operation. It also turns out that the whole incident last year seemed to have escaped the attention of the Minister . Being caught flat-footed, and dozing at the atomic switch, he lashed out with a good offense, at the NRC. Not for causing a problem with nuclear energy, but for causing a problem in the health system. The head of the NRC had the temerity to remind him that nuclear safety was the only task within the purview of her commission, the isotopes were the bailiwick of AECL.

Well, you shouldn't tell an uninformed minister such as this and she, consequentially, got her walking papers three days ago. The plot is just starting to bubble as nobody in the current government visits the rest room without the imprimatur of the 'Lone Ranger'. If it hadn't been for the Liberal leaders Marcel Dion and Mike Ignatieff coming back from a visit to Afghanistan with an epiphany about NATO invading Pakistan, Harper might have been beaten around the head and ears for suffering fools lightly. He still might be, after he gets finished laughing at Gunga Dion and his wanting to march on the Paks to re-take the Khyber Pass.

The isotopes are flowing again, and the pump's not repaired. If there's a blue green glow in the northern sky it might be the Aurora Borealis, or it might be a super isotope. Or it might be more Ottawa ballistics.

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