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Medical isotope source restarts

Mon., Dec. 17, 2007

Canada’s state-owned atomic energy company said Sunday it has reopened a nuclear reactor after its shutdown created a critical shortage of radioactive isotopes used to diagnose and treat cancer patients in Canada, the United States and many other nations.

The National Research Reactor provides half the world’s supply of the isotopes, which are used in about 25 million medical diagnoses and treatments each year.

The 50-year-old reactor was shut down Nov. 18 for maintenance and had been scheduled to resume operation Nov. 23.

But the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission ordered an indefinite stoppage after discovering the reactor had been running for a year without the emergency power system being connected to two cooling pumps.

The announcement comes days after lawmakers scrambled to pass legislation allowing the company to bypass Canada’s nuclear safety watchdog.


Brazil, Argentina launch rocket

Brazil and Argentina successfully launched a rocket into space on Sunday in the first joint space mission by the two South American nations.

The VS30 rocket, which carried experiments from both countries, blasted off from Brazil’s Barreira do Inferno launch center in northern Rio Grande do Norte state, Brazil’s Space Agency said in a statement.

The rocket reached an altitude of 75 miles and its journey – which lasted 9 minutes, 25 seconds – was considered “perfect,” the agency said.

The mission was the fruit of a 1998 accord between agencies in Brazil, which has launched rockets into space before, and Argentina, which has relied on other nations to send up satellites.

BAGRAM, Afghanistan

General says attacks dropping

A top American general said Sunday that attacks along the Afghan-Pakistan border have dropped more than 40 percent since July and the U.S. and its allies are making progress in the fight against the Taliban.

Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel said the decrease in insurgent activity along the border could be attributed to the onset of winter, a rise in insurgent attacks in Pakistan and an increase in communication and coordination among NATO, Afghan and Pakistani forces.

Recent media and analysts’ reports have said the international mission is not succeeding and Afghanistan is becoming increasingly unstable. This year has been the deadliest since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, with more than 6,300 people killed in the violence, mostly militants, according to an Associated Press count based on official figures.

The country has also seen a record number of suicide bomb attacks – more than 140 – this year.


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