Reston, Va.SNM is optimistic that the anticipated recommencement of the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL)-run National Research Universal (NRU) reactor in Chalk River, Canada, will provide short-term relief to the isotope shortage that has been plaguing patients and the nuclear medicine community for more than one year. However, SNM cautions that the restart of this reactor will not solve the ongoing production and supply issues causing the crisis.
"We are cautiously optimistic that NRU going back online will alleviate some of the most pressing concerns facing the nuclear medicine community," said Robert W. Atcher, Ph.D., M.B.A., chair of SNM's Domestic Isotope Availability Work Group and past president of the society. "However, this is not a magic bullet, and NRU coming back online will not solve this crisis. As the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) staff are reported to have observed, gaps in the assessment of the reactor could have a serious impact on the reliability of the reactor's operation in the future."
In a news conference held last month during SNM's Annual Meeting, Atcher asked Canadian officials to help put an end to this endemic crisis once and for all. "Several years ago, government and industrial parties in Canada assured the nuclear medicine community that Canada's MAPLE reactors could ensure the continued availability of Mo-99 in the U.S.," he said. In 2007, that project was canceled due to cost over-runs and technical problems.
The NRU reactor at Chalk River was unexpectedly shut down in May 2009 after workers discovered a leak during a routine inspection. The NRU reactor supplied more than 35% of the world's supply of Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99)a critical medical isotope whose decay product, Technetium-99m (Tc-99m), is used for common imaging procedures to diagnose and detect heart disease, cancer and other conditions. More than 16 million procedures are conducted annually in the U.S. using that isotope. <
|Contact: Amy Shaw|
Society of Nuclear Medicine