Chalk River nuclear reactor — Keynesian failure

Forget about the radiation leaks for a moment, if you can.

People are asking what this recent shutdown of the Chalk River nuclear reactor will mean. The answer is simple: people will suffer or die when they otherwise expected to heal.

There is hope but this facility stunted technological growth. I offer the Chalk River nuclear facility — a Crown corporation — as an example of the failure of government intervention monopolizing the market place. We do not need an inquiry to figure this out.

The reflexive socialists often attack free market economics by claiming that it will invariably produce monopolies that will raise prices and restrict supply. Currently, that is exactly what government has fostered in the medical market. Blaming Stephen Harper and the Conservatives is short-sighted and displays a profound ignorance of industrial economics.

Here is the proof:

OTTAWA – Clinics are paying two to three times more for medical isotopes after a supplier abruptly hiked its prices this month – just before the Chalk River reactor shut down and caused an isotope shortage.

Doctors fear the higher costs may force some clinics to delay tests used to detect cancer and heart ailments, lay off staff or even close.

Lantheus Medical Imaging, a Massachusetts-based company that supplies clinics with ‘generators’ used in medical imaging, notified its customers last week of the price increase.

So, if you ccan read that correctly, a government monopoly — thus, an un-free market — has led Canadians to face higher prices and generated sudden supply shortages from old technology with the added bonus of radiation leaks!

Scale tip to CanCer. Thanks!


  1. Scott Merrithew says

    If these isotopes are so important to the health care systems of the entire world, how on earth did we end up with a single source?
    There are several potential sources of nuclear material in Canada, and in other nuclear nations in the world. What is preventing them from meeting the market demand that obviously exists?

  2. FredR says

    This is probably an over-simplification, but, in a nut-shell, I’d say the problem is over-regulation. Creating medical isotopes is not easy and not cheap – the Chalk River facility was a research reactor from 1949, that has been updated over time to produce medical-grade isotopes.

    Here’s a link to a great letter written by one of scientists involved in creation of the ‘MAPLE” reactors that were to replace the Chalk River facility ( ) – and it clearly shows the timidity and foot-dragging of the nuclear bureaucracy that resulted in the demise of the MAPLE reactor.

    The ultimate irony is that the HANARO reactor in Korea, based on the MAPLE design is producing medical isotopes, even as Canadian production falls to pieces.

    The real question that should be asked of Canada’s nuclear program is why does it work overseas, but not at home?

  3. says

    We’re not the single source, I heard it’s only 30%. The problem is 1/3 can’t be made up by others.

    And we need an inquiry for any major failure of the government or officials because that’s the only way those bums get shut down later on. An inquiry was required to bring down the Liberals, and at least one will be required to turf the no good Conservatives too.

  4. Scott Merrithew says

    Thanks for the clarification.
    Government and bureaucracy tend to be joined at the hip (wallet), so I dare say that getting government out of the AECL would return it to a workable business model, and restore a market-based incentive to retain our third of the market. After all, there is good money to be made by producing a limited commodity.
    Since there are only a handful of players in this business, some cartel regulation would be required, but only enough to prevent the sort of price collusion we see in OPEC oil gouging, er pricing.

  5. Morty says

    You do realize that the NRU’s been running as a research reactor for 52 years, right? And that it only produces 99Mo on a contract basis for a private company (MDS Nordion)? And that our government has done nothing, historically, to dissuade private enterprise from building their own reactors for isotope production? The only reason the NRU represents a monopoly on Canadian 99Mo production is because private industry has not, until recently, been willing to invest in facilities to do it themselves. That’s a failure of the free market to provide a necessary service, not a failure of governments.

  6. says

    You do realize that any market in which the government intervenes is not a free market, right? It does not seem like you do. Any “failure” that you perceive in the market can not be blamed on the free market.

    By the way, “market failure” is a fallacious concept. Do not get sucked into believing it is a valid economic concept. The term “market failure” is a euphemism that crony capitalists, confused socialists and other parasitic free-loaders use to hide the simple fact that their operating costs are high and they feel entitled to a subsidy.

    Thus, what you believe is a “market failure” can not be separated from the effects of market distortion created specifically by the government.

  7. Jeffrey Wilson says

    Does anyone know of a Brian A. Dunn, LLB or a Sara Jane Cohen? My company received a threatening letter in the mail from these people concering the Chalk River facility and AECL and we have nothing to do with these facilities. We are located in Indiana, USA and are not even in teh nuclear business. Trying to find out why we received this letter and who these people might be, before we turn it over to our FBI.