Thursday, June 18, 2009

Minister Raitt: Look here at home for the isotope solution

Things are crashing down on the "can't do" Conservatives. They're scrambling: Raitt looks to France, Belgium for medical isotopes:
Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt met with medical isotope experts from around the world on Thursday to try to secure an alternate supply for Canada.
Yet what's the matter with Canada's options, Minister Raitt? It's beginning to dawn on them that they may have messed up, it appears. Mixed signs that they're getting a clue. Raitt still hedging earlier today on the Maples reactors being reconsidered:
Revisiting the cancelled MAPLE reactors project, which concluded last year after producing not a single isotope and coming in hundreds of millions of dollars over budget, wouldn't solve the world's current problem, Ms. Raitt said.

"To revisit it... there was a lot of study done," she said. "Even if in 2008 it was determined that it could be fixed, the timeline would still be 5 to 10 years."
Not the timeline others have been saying. This report is somewhat encouraging though:
The Canadian government defended its decision to scrap the Maple isotope reactor project on Thursday, but left the door open for private groups to take over the mothballed nuclear program.

Ottawa halted construction of the project last year because of cost overruns and technical problems. It was planned to be a replacement for the ailing 50-year-old Chalk River unit and take over the production of medical isotopes.
"There may be groups of individuals and groups of companies out there that want to revisit the Maples and the calls for information and expressions of interest may very well point that out, because there are pieces that are not the reactor that are still utilizable, with still good infrastructure," Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt, told reporters.

"So we are hoping to get some interesting proposals coming out in the calls for information," Raitt said.
Guess why the Conservatives may have had a fire lit under them? The world pushing back and reeling from the PM's comments last week that we're getting out of the isotope business entirely down the road. That was quite the "Stephen Harper: Leadership" moment and the folks in the U.S. don't mess around. They've decided they've had enough of relying on us:
First, a letter was sent to the U.S. Congress by a high-powered coalition of U.S. medical and non-proliferation experts, demanding Washington abandon Canadian isotope production and start domestic production using low-enriched uranium (LEU), which is unsuitable for nuclear weapons.
U.S. nuclear-medicine and heath-care officials have now joined in an unprecedented coalition with the U.S. non-proliferation movement, using Monday's letter to urge the Senate and House appropriations committees to fund domestic production using LEU, "as quickly as possible."
Way to go, Steve! More coming in next post, the nuclear leadership we're providing is getting some great international attention today...

By the way, for a good background report on the Maples and the Chalk River shutdown, here's a video put out courtesy of the BCer...thx, Jeff!

For more on this topic, see: Blog Post Index: Medical Isotope crisis & Chalk River shutdown.