Nuclear Crisis or Medical Crisis?

By S. Reza

In November 2007, Canada shutdown its research reactor in chalk river that was responsible for manufacturing two thirds of the world’s medical isotopes necessary for cancer treatment, and nuclear medicine. The United States provides Canada with 25 Kg of weapons grade Uranium to this reactor for medical isotopes. Currently, 95% of the world’s 99Mo, a key ingredient for radiopharmaceutical supply is produced in six reactors around the world.

The reactor was shut down because of alleged safety concerns brought up by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Without going into the technicalities of the issue, a crisis has been looming since 2007, which has failed to make it to the headlines mainly because it is intertwined with the word nuclear which politicians do not comprehend. There are line ups and often frustrations among patients around the world who are waiting for new batches of medicine to be manufactured so that there diagnosis can continue.

Little do they know that our politicians are busy writing drafts of sanctions against countries who want to run their medical reactors to meet the needs of their people. It is a shame that the medical crisis has been overshadowed by the so called nuclear crisis associated with Iran.  The countries who are asking Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment, in turn for their cooperation in both medical and electricity through nuclear technology, are not able to meet their own demand. These governments have failed to fix their own nuclear crisis in their respective countries.

Iran currently imports 0.1% of world supply of 99Mo, for its medical needs and a significant amount decays as it reaches its borders. On the contrary, US imports 40% of the world supply to not only meet its needs but also for research purposes. Currently, the global supply has gone down after the NRU shutdown in Canada.  It is a dilemma that the world powers who are obsessed by Iran’s enrichment program, fail to realise that the US supplied fuel to the Tehran Research Reactor in 1967, which is running out was enough for Iran to develop a nuclear bomb. However, Iran chose to run the fuel for medical purposes and is running out for which it is ready to stand up to the world so that it can meet its demand and keep its reactor running.

As Canadians, we should be questioning our government, if it is ready to stand up against all odds and invest in the NRU so that Canada continues to be a leader in nuclear medicine. It is time for western nations to focus at home and solve this medical crisis. Let the countries in the Middle East solve their own problems and for this Iran has already asked Turkey for help. It is time for us to seek help in fixing our reactor and continue to lead the medical world for this can be a peaceful Canadian way of influencing the emerging nuclear world.