Big nuclear medicine news out of Canada today… Radiopharmaceutical giant MDS Nordion “filed a lawsuit”:http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/C-AECL_sued_over_reactor_cancellation-1007087.html against the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) for halting the “MAPLE project”:http://www.aecl.ca/Commercial/DIF/MAPLE/DIF-MAPLE.htm.
Just to back up… As you may or may not know, Nordion, which produces critical medical isotopes using _highly enriched uranium_ – for explanation of proliferation risks see “*NTI’s Civilian Uses of HEU: HEU Use for Radioisotope Production*”:http://www.nti.org/db/heu/civilian.html – currently holds a monopoly on the U.S. radioisotope market (see “AECL video on nuclear medicine”:http://www.videos.aecl.ca/NuclearMed3.wmv). The MAPLEs were supposed to put an end to Canada’s reliance on the five-decade-old National Research Universal (NRU) reactor for isotope production. The NRU, a “poster child for unsafe operating practices”:http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/308320, is also “dependent on U.S. exports of HEU”:http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/week/050804.htm.
In May, “without consulting Nordion”:http://www.mds.nordion.com/documents/news-releases/2008/MDS_Response_to_AECL_Government.pdf, AECL decided to discontinue the MAPLEs due to “costs of further development, as well as the time frame and risks involved”:http://www.aecl.ca/NewsRoom/News/Press-2008/080516.htm. AECL maintained that the “NRU”:http://www.nrureactor.ca/ would continue isotope production until its license expired in 2011, and, in the meantime, AECL would work with Nordion to figure out what to do to maintain isotope supply post-NRU.
Today, Nordion said that it is “disappointed that AECL and the Government decided to abandon the MAPLE project without establishing a clear plan for the long-term [radioisotope] supply”:http://www.mds.nordion.com/documents/news-releases/2008/AECL_Arbitration_FINAL.pdf. News of the lawsuit appear to mean that Nordion is no closer to figuring out what it will do after 2011 in order to supply the U.S. with critical medical isotopes than it was in May.
To make sense of what this means for elimination of HEU use in the civilian sphere, you should *come to _The Nonproliferation Review_ luncheon briefing*, which will take place “July 21st in DC”:http://cns.miis.edu/cns/activity/080721_nprbriefing/index.htm. Yes, the “notorious -402-page-long- July issue of the NPR”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/1923/hibbs-reviews-books-on-pak-bomb has a special section on civil HEU elimination. “Check it out!”:http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=g794017031~db=all
*UPDATE*: _My short attention span is getting me into trouble (sorry, Stephen and Cat!). The issue of the Review is a mere 287 pages long. I just glanced at the last page of the issue. My bad._