A coalition of healthcare professionals, scientists and national-security experts have sent a letter asking Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) to stop blocking a full Senate vote on a bill aimed at starting domestic production of medical isotopes—a tracking agent used in imaging procedures.
Senator urged to stop blocking isotope production bill
The American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2010 proposes, among other actions, allocating $163 million to help subsidize construction of nuclear facilities that would produce molybdenum-99, a uranium enrichment byproduct that is used to produce medical isotopes.
The legislation passed the House and has been scheduled for a full Senate vote since January. But Bond, who is opposed to a provision in the bill that would ban the importation of isotopes from facilities that use highly enriched, bomb-grade uranium to produce medical isotopes, has blocked the vote. In an April 13 letter sent to the House Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, Bond said he was concerned that such a ban would decrease the U.S.'s access to needed medical isotopes.
“I do not believe that we should endanger the health of millions of U.S. cancer patients by cutting off their current source of medicine,” Bond wrote.
But in their letter to Bond, the coalition—which includes Andrew Einstein, director of CT Cardiac Research at Columbia University Medical Center, and Alan Kuperman, director of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Program at the University of Texas' Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law in Austin—said passage of the legislation would guarantee a sufficient supply of isotopes for U.S. patients.
“If these provisions were enacted, the U.S. Department of Energy predicts that within seven years domestic facilities without (highly enriched uranium) would have the capacity to produce up to twice or more the U.S. demand for such medical isotopes,” the group wrote.
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