Tuesday, June 22, 2010

On the BC isotope announcement today

So apparently there's this federal and BC government funding announcement for the TRIUMF physics lab in Vancouver today. Here's the headline, which reads like an assurance: "$63m project will provide isotopes." "Will." Now that sounds easy! Isotopes, it will produce, said Yoda! But you know, it's not that simple. It's going to take four years to build the facility (the accelerator) for starters.

Further, there are doubts about commercializing this kind of research, putting the isotopes into a format so they can be used by the medical community. In August of last year, for example, the Globe reported serious doubts about TRIUMF's ability to produce isotopes based on this accelerator technology. But that's all changed now, has it?

And by the way, this federal contribution was already announced in the budget, nothing new from the Harps to see here.

This little post is not meant to be negative about this funding, investing in R & D in high tech industries is a good thing for Canada, we should indeed be supporting it. It's also a good thing to have a diversified isotope supply, as we know. But if the choices you make, as a government, to create a diversified supply are entirely on the experimental side and don't ultimately work out, what then? So let's have some perspective on the isotope solving aspect of this TRIUMF route. It may or may not be an isotope solution, contrary to such headlines and what we may hear today.

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