Friday, August 21, 2009

Special federal meeting on medical isotopes & Chalk River today

From 2:15 - 5:00 today, a special meeting of the Commons Natural Resources Committee will be taking place. It's all about the isotope shortage, a heck of a way to spend a Friday afternoon in August if you're interested;)

Here's the agenda with witness list. A few points on it, if you're going to be watching (with approximate witness times for the first 3, common sense).

2:15 Michael Ivanco: is an AECL engineer and vice-president of the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, the union of engineers at AECL. He's been vocal in that capacity in speaking out about the uncertainty the federal government's privatization plans for AECL have created and the resulting halt to Ontario's nuclear plans:
"As the scientists and engineers of AECL we know what a world leader the company is and what potential it holds for Canadians," said Ivanco. "We need the Government of Canada to complete the reorganization quickly while maintaining majority control of the company. AECL has demonstrated that it has the technical capability of delivering a winning bid for Ontario. Now we need to remove this impediment and quickly negotiate a contract to build this project."
The AECL engineers are concerned about the future of the crown corporation and what the government's plans are:
Ivanco said the fear is that the government will sell part of the commercial reactor business to a foreign rival, such as France’s Areva SA, that will simply let decades of Candu innovation wither and die.

“Our biggest concern is that we’re bought by somebody who isn’t interested in the technology but is interested in getting rid of a competitor,” he said. “If we are sold, then I hope it’s to a company that will keep the technology Canadian.”
2:30 Robert Atcher, President, International Society of Nuclear Medicine: I would expect to hear about the international community's difficulties in dealing with the shortage now with perhaps some stern words for Canada. He hasn't been shy lately in speaking forcefully about the effects of the crisis on patients and Canada's breach of its implied contract to finish those darned Maples and continue supplying a big share of the world's isotopes. Expect more of that.

2:45 Sandy McEwan, the Minister of Health's special advisor on isotopes: If McEwan is restricted by the usual code of conduct for Harper government witnesses, could be mucho to do with the excellent response by the health community. And that's it. Which, to be fair, has been by all accounts remarkable but they are being stretched & exhausted now. Further, in the fairness realm, the man is an expert and he'll likely be quite informative on nuclear medicine. We shall see. The Quebec head of nuclear medicine was not thrilled when McEwan was appointed (it's the last link in that post, the Globe is now curiously walling off stories from just a few months ago). The big question for the federal Minister would be: why no compensation from the feds to the provinces for increased costs? Don't know if McEwan will have that answer.

3:00 - 4:00: we have Atomic Energy of Canada executives up. Expect the focus here to be "how's the reactor repair going, guys?" And by the way, what's with you and your no-can-do attitude on the Maples when a raft of experts disagree . Hope to see some rigorous examination here.

4:00 - 5:00: the Department of Natural Resources guys are up. Although the first, Serge Dupont, who is listed as "Deputy Minister" is actually no longer. Harper moved him over to the Privy Council Office in June. But he is still a special adviser to Raitt. So how involved in the file is Mr. Harper, Serge? And what has Raitt been doing this summer? 

Twitter hashtag: #RNNR for those tweeting it.