Reconsider Maple reactors, doctors
SASKATOON – The
federal government has bungled the medical isotopes file, the Canadian
Medical Association’s outgoing president says. “The federal government
didn’t play the role it should have played there,” Dr. Robert Ouellet
(pictured) said during the CMA’s annual conference, in Saskatoon, after
the association passed motions urging the government to re-enter the
“There was a warning a year-and-a-half ago when the Chalk River reactor
went wrong. They didn’t provide any views on what will come in the
future. And this reactor is 53 years old.”
The government’s decisions on reactors have been made “for financial
reasons,” Dr. Ouellet charged, and did not fully consider the effects on
patient care. The association demanded that the federal government
retain a leading role in providing medical isotopes for the world and
reconsider a decision to back away from isotope production.
Delegates at the CMA’s annual meeting in Saskatoon passed five motions
they hope will help turn around a shortage of medical radioisotopes for
As one of the motions, the CMA is demanding the government appoint an
international expert panel to review the decision to abandon Chalk
River’s Maple I and II research reactors, which were to have replaced
the troubled National Research Universal (NRU) reactor.
Speaking about the lack of Canadian-produced medical isotopes, Dr.
Ouellet said: “The federal government must be made accountable for this.
They lacked foresight, and of course right now there’s a shortage, and
there will be additional costs for everyone.”
The Chalk River reactor, which is currently shut down until at least
early 2010 due to a heavy water leak, supplied nearly a third of the
world’s isotopes for nuclear medical tests. The isotope shortage has
forced the cancellation of thousands of medical tests across the
Doctors are also demanding the government conduct “open, meaningful and
ongoing consultations with nuclear medicine physicians” and their
associations on all federal decisions affecting the supply of medical
Posted Aug. 27/09.