Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chalk River restart pushed back again

A new hedging sentence appears in the AECL updates about the Chalk River reactor repairs. Can you spot the fresh meat in these staid updates?
NRU’s earliest return-to-service is the end of April. Technical challenges with the repair sequence, as described above, continue to pose risk of schedule slippage. Further guidance on the return-to-service date will be provided when more information becomes available.
If you guessed sentence number two, you'd be correct. So now the restart has been pushed back again, now to the "end of April." The previous update on February 17th said the restart date was "April." Throughout January, the targeted restart date was end of March. Not a good trend.

As the old reactor repair is underway, still no word from the government on what their ultimate back-up plan is for this clearly significant problem. The budget next week is unlikely to contain any spending for a new project. The spin Wednesday night on the budget has morphed from no new spending to no new spending on significant measures. Sounds like the long term panel's advice to build a new NRU replacement is in purgatory for the foreseeable future. If that is true, the government is demonstrating an interesting risk management philosophy, sticking with the old equipment without making any choices to mitigate the risk of further future breakdowns. Nowhere else but in government would such choices be possible.

For more on this topic, see: Blog Post Index: Medical Isotope crisis & Chalk River shutdown.