Health Canada

Health Canada

December 19, 2007 15:37 ET

Minister Clement Thanks Chalk River Staff for Quick, Safe Restart of Research Reactor

CHALK RIVER, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 19, 2007) - The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health, today thanked the staff at the National Research Universal Reactor in Chalk River for quickly resuming the production of urgently needed medical isotopes.

"I am happy to be here to thank the Chalk River Laboratory staff for their swift action to get the reactor restarted successfully and safely," said Minister Clement. "As a result of their hard work following the passage of our emergency legislation on December 13, the reactor is now producing isotopes again for medical uses in Canada and around the world."

Isotopes from the Chalk River facility are used to produce medical radioactive isotopes, which are used to diagnose and treat cancer and cardiovascular disease. More than half the isotopes used around the world are produced at the Chalk River facility.

On November 18, 2007, the reactor was shutdown due to the unexpected extension of routine maintenance, which threatened a worldwide shortage of isotopes and caused delays and even cancellations of diagnostic tests. The Government of Canada acted swiftly by introducing emergency legislation on December 12, 2007 to allow the reactor to restart following the shutdown.

With the reactor now up and running, delivery of new isotopes to medical facilities is expected to begin the week of December 24, with a return to a regular delivery schedule by December 31.

Health Canada continues to work with its ad hoc committee of experts - with representation from the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Society of Nuclear Medicine, oncologists, and cardiologists - to collaboratively look for alternative sources of supply for these isotopes, alternative isotopes to use, and possible alternative therapies that could be approved on an emergency basis to meet patient needs until the supply of isotopes from Chalk River is fully restored.

The committee, convened last week, worked urgently to assess the extent, severity and the implications of the shortage and has provided ongoing medical advice on alternate diagnostic products, procedures and supplies.

"As the radio isotope shortage has evolved, Canadians can feel reassured by the swiftness with which healthcare professionals have worked together to address the urgent needs of patients. Until the shortage is alleviated, I will spare no effort in working with all of our partners to minimize treatment delay, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all healthcare professionals for their creativity and spirit of sharing during this difficult period," said Minister Clement.

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Contact Information

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    Office of the Honourable Tony Clement
    Federal Minister of Health
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