MDS: Reactor will restart in July

Supplier delays have landed nuclear medicine company MDS in hot water: The company struggles to remain financially afloat as it awaits the restart of a nuclear reactor that supplies it with raw isotopes. The company's Nordion division processes the isotopes and sells them for use in medical imaging.

The reactor is run by Atomic Energy of Canada in Ontario, which says it expects to be back online in July. It's been out of commission since May 2009, according to a local press report. The energy company said then that it expected the shutdown to last about a month, and then pushed the restart date to late 2009, early 2010, and now mid-year. The shutdown followed the discovery of a radioactive water leak.

Another source of raw isotopes, the Petten nuclear reactor in the Netherlands, also is currently shut down; it projects an August restart.

Steve West, chief executive at MDS, is optimistic, despite Atomic Energy of Canada's poor track record for restart projections. "We have examined our facilities, made modifications and upgrades, prepared employees with additional training, and communicated to our supply chain a ready-to-ship and supply action plan," he told investors.

The company has been stung by financial loses and weak product revenues without its key ingredient. It has restructured and sold business units. It also has tried to grow its sterilization technologies and radiopharmaceutical products businesses in the interim.

West says he's investigating work-arounds to the supply problem, looking into medium- and long-term options to shore up the supply chain.

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