Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pressure on government to reverse Maples reactor decision

The advocacy for the reopening of the MAPLEs reactors continues: "The Maple reactors can keep Canada's isotope industry alive."

The Maples are state-of-the-art reactors. Their sole purpose is to produce medical isotopes. One Maple reactor powered at 50 per cent could produce enough isotopes to replace production from the NRU.

And the Maples do work. They created isotopes, just as the NRU has created isotopes. This fact has been verified by independent observers. The Maple reactors are complete, they are safe and they await final commissioning.

What is needed now is a collaboration of international experts, with or without AECL, to bring this much-needed capacity online. Is the government absolutely positive that, with the help of international experts, the Maple reactors would not be able to produce medical isotopes?

Given the global shortage, it's time for Canada to reverse its public policy decision. Activating the Maple reactors will do more than provide a secure supply of medical isotopes for the welfare of patients worldwide. It will preserve Canada's leadership position in the innovative and increasingly important field of nuclear medicine.

That op-ed in the Globe is by an MDS executive. MDS has a financial interest in those reactors but their views are echoed by other scientists. For example, see this op-ed by a University of Waterloo scientist in the Star today, also calling for the reconsideration of the decision to close the Maples reactors and for a more comprehensive approach on nuclear policy in Canada.

In addition, in the report on the National last night, we learned that the National Academy of Sciences also believes that the money to complete the Maples reactors to get them working properly ("tens of millions") would in the long run be less expensive than continuing to operate Chalk River to 2016 and perhaps beyond ("hundreds of millions").

The case continues to build to reconsider the Harper government's decision on the Maples.

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