Doctor wants isotope shortage to be a priority

The Society of Nuclear Medicine says the shortage of radioactive isotopes due to the Chalk River reactor shutdown is the worst crisis ever to hit the profession.

By The Canadian Press

TORONTO — The Society of Nuclear Medicine says the shortage of radioactive isotopes due to the Chalk River reactor shutdown is the worst crisis ever to hit the profession.

The group is holding its annual meeting in Toronto this week, coincidentally at the same time as the worldwide supply of medical isotopes to perform vital tests on patients has become severely threatened.

President Robert Atcher of the University of New Mexico says the society is calling on the governments of Canada, the U.S. and other countries to fund new production facilities and to update existing ones.

The aging Chalk River reactor supplies more than one-third of the world’s raw material for the most commonly used radioactive isotope but is expected to be offline for at least three months.

Atcher says 91 per cent of society members say the shortage has seriously impaired their ability to provide patients with much-needed tests.

He says alternative means of testing patients with cancer, heart disease and other serious conditions are being used, but they can be much more invasive.