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Nuclear physicians warn of continued isotope shortage

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted July 26, 2010

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After more than a year of repairs, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited will allow the National Research Universal reactor in Chalk River, Ontario, to restart production of the molybdenum-99 used in some medical scans by the end of July. The Society of Nuclear Medicine is warning, however, that this action will not solve continuing supply problems of the substance, which, because of its half-life, cannot be stockpiled.

"We are cautiously optimistic that NRU going back online will alleviate some of the most pressing concerns facing the nuclear medicine community," said Robert W. Atcher, PhD, chair of the organization's Domestic Isotope Availability Work Group and past president of the society.

The substance is used to diagnose some forms of heart disease, although it also can play a role in finding cancer and assessing the function of lungs, kidneys, the stomach and other organs. Supply shortages ensued when the reactor was shut down in May 2009 after a heavy water leak was discovered during a routine inspection. The only other reactors producing this substance also are outside the U.S., and the medical society is lobbying for domestic production of the isotope.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2010/07/26/bibf0726.htm.

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