Monday, November 09, 2009

U.S. acts, Canada waits on isotope file

There is reporting to note today on the isotope file, the U.S. has done what's been in the works for months now, passing a bill in the House of Representatives to fund domestic isotope production. They took up the cause because they've been historically reliant on us for their isotopes. But due to the two shutdowns of Chalk River in the past few years, they've learned that they can't rely on Canada for future production. Harper's closing down of the Maples backups in the spring of 2008 sent that message strongly as well.

Now we'll be faced with a lost American market, once they get up and running, perhaps hastening the demise of our own. We've not committed to keeping Chalk River open beyond 2016. It's likely that the Harper Government would prefer to just shut it down at that point. After all, that's what Mr. Harper said quite nonchalantly this summer, that we're getting out of the business in the long run anyway.

This is a high tech industry in which we've led the world and over the past few months we've just sat back, letting the Americans step up and essentially take a big part of it away. The Dutch are also building a new reactor. How this government's inaction constitutes good economic or strategic leadership in Canada's long term interest is beyond this Canadian. The brains will drain, going where the action, research and money is. If we don't maintain our own sources, we'll become dependent on foreign isotope suppliers, increasing expenses for Canadian health care.

Still we sit, with no word from the Harper Government on any of this, Lisa Raitt's panel is still studying the issue, even though the Prime Minister has already publicly stated his view. And in the meantime, patients still can't get their nuclear diagnostics, with all the medical damage that entails.