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The isotope reactor at Chalk River won't start up until mid-May at the earliest, which means it won't produce isotopes until June. The reactor will have been down at least a year since a heavy water leak was discovered in May, 2009.

As its operator Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. pushes back the restart date again, spokesman Dale Coffin said AECL still isn't sure how long it will take to fix. Repairs have cost an estimated $70-million so far.

"This is first of a kind," he said. There's unfortunately no textbook we can take off a shelf and say, 'In event of this, do this.'"

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The Chalk River reactor normally produces a third of the world's medical isotopes, used for a wide range of vital medical procedures, including cancer diagnosis and heart treatment. Since the NRU was taken offline last year, the other four main reactors have been left to pick up the slack.

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