MDS urges Canada to restart MAPLE project in lieu of prolonged NRU shutdown

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MDS Nordion, a medical isotope and radiopharmaceutical provider, is urging the Canadian government and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to complete the Multipurpose Applied Physics Lattice Experiment (MAPLE) project to address the global shortage of medical isotopes. The company's statement is particularly compelling following the AECL announcement Wednesday that the 52-year-old National Research Universal (NRU) reactor at Chalk River, Ont., will not return to service before late 2009.

"There are no domestic or international sources of supply that can fully mitigate this shortage, which has caused and will continue to cause unavoidable and serious disruptions to patient care," MDS stated.

The Petten reactor in the Netherlands, which produces approximately 30 percent of the world's supply of medical isotopes, will be shut down for approximately four weeks--beginning in mid July--for scheduled maintenance; and it is expected to be taken offline again in early 2010 to repair a leak.

"The fragility of the world's isotope supply can be overcome," the company said. The Ottawa-based MDS said it is "critical that the Canadian government direct AECL to honor its long-standing commitment to replace the NRU by bringing the MAPLE facilities into service."

On June 18, at the Standing Committee on Natural Resources in Ottawa, Harold Smith, MD, ex-manager of MAPLE Nuclear Commissioning, HIZ and Associates, testified that he and his team took both "MAPLE 1 and MAPLE 2 to criticality. We measured the positive (power coefficient of reactivity) PCR... there are two MAPLE reactors, each with the capacity to deliver more than the current world requirement (for medical isotopes)."

"The infrastructure is in place, and with the assistance of an international consortium of nuclear experts, the MAPLE facilities could be producing medical isotopes to the benefit of patients worldwide," said Steve West, president of MDS.