A coalition of medical, nuclear-nonproliferation and academic experts are urging Congress to provide sufficient funding for the production of medical isotopes using low-enriched uranium that can be used in medical procedures.
The request follows the unexpected, mid-May closing of a Canadian nuclear reactor that produces one-third of the worlds supply of the isotope molybdenum-99, used in nuclear medicine imaging.
In a letter to Senate and House leaders, representatives from more than a dozen different groups and institutionsincluding the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Program at the University of Texas at Austin, American Society for Radiation Oncology, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Columbia University Medical Centersay the U.S. faces a double crisis regarding medical radioisotopes that thousands of patients rely on each year. First, the U.S. does not produce molybdenum-99, which causes the country to rely on imports from unreliable, aging foreign facilities, according to the letter. And second, it says a longer-term danger exists because all major foreign suppliers produce these isotopes using nuclear weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium, the same material that was used in the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
Both problems could be fixed, the groups suggest, by appropriating funding to the National Nuclear Security Administration for domestic production of these isotopes.