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CREATE Responds to Federal Announcement on Medical Isotopes

Posted at 04/06/10 - 07:29 AM

On March 31, 2010, the federal government announced its response to the report of the Expert Review Panel on Medical Isotope Production (available here). In short, the federal policy is to fund R&D for alternative methods of producing technetium-99m, which is used to diagnose 30 million patients each year around the world, and that a new multipurpose research reactor still requires careful assessment focused on its other missions.

CREATE issued the following news release on April 6, 2010 in response:
http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/CREATE-Responds-to-Federal-Announcement-on-Medical-Isotopes-1143214.htm

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"We applaud the government's stated intention to place Canadian production of Tc-99m 'on a sound commercial footing without government support,'" said Gord Tapp, spokesperson for CREATE, a grass-roots effort that has proposed a vision for Chalk River as a national laboratory.

Tc-99m is the most commonly used medical isotope and is the daughter-product of Mo-99, which is produced in the NRU reactor in Chalk River.

"The recent policy announcement clearly separated the issues of a new research reactor and Tc-99m production," Mr. Tapp said, "Clarity in this complex policy landscape is a step forward. Tc-99m was not the reason for building the NRU reactor, and it is clear that it will not be a major reason for the new research reactor."

Although CREATE had proposed a new multi-purpose reactor for research and isotope production, this federal policy now focuses the mission of the proposed reactor on research and development (R&D).

"Effectively, cyclotrons and linear accelerators are now being considered to replace the MAPLE reactors to produce Tc-99m," Mr. Tapp said, "but the question of a new reactor for neutron beams and nuclear energy R&D that could replace these functions of the NRU reactor is yet to be answered."

CREATE believes that an assessment of the benefits of these R&D missions will show that the costs of a new research reactor are justified. Knowledge gained from a multi-purpose research reactor would help Canada to safely extend the operating life of its power reactors and save Canada billions of dollars in electricity generation costs.

Like the NRU reactor, a new multi-purpose reactor should have a flexible design to meet Canada's needs for the future, including for example, the capacity for innovation in other isotopes for industry and medicine, if needed.

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Expanding on these comments in the news release, CREATE notes the possibility that Tc-99m production using cyclotrons and accelerators might not prove viable. An additional benefit of a new multipurpose reactor would be insurance against the possible failure of these options. 

Author: CREATE
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