OTTAWA — Provinces that pinched and scraped during the long medical isotope shortage can go cap in hand to Ottawa.
But whether the federal government foots the bill is another story.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq says she’s still open paying provinces for extra costs they incurred during the 15-month shutdown of the Canadian reactor that supplies a big chunk of the world’s isotopes.
But she says no province has asked for money yet.
On the contrary, Aglukkaq says provinces such as Nova Scotia told her they didn’t need any extra federal money to cover their costs.
A spokesman for Ontario’s health minister says the province plans to ask the federal government for money once it tallies all its isotope costs. He wouldn’t say how much money Ontario will ask for.
Doctors scrambled to make do with an erratic and sometimes short supply of isotopes used to diagnose cancer and heart problems while the reactor was down.
Clinics stayed open longer and isotope costs soared. Some provinces wanted Ottawa to pick up the tab since a government-owned nuclear company caused the shortage.
Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. shut down a reactor at Chalk River, Ont., in May 2009 after discovering a pinhole-size radioactive water leak.
The 53-year-old reactor supplied a third of the world’s medical imaging isotopes until AECL shut it down.
What was originally supposed to be a month-long shutdown dragged on for more than a year. It fell to a handful of other reactors around the world built a half-century ago to supply medical isotopes.
Chalk River resumed isotope production in August.