Natural Resources Canada

Natural Resources Canada

May 21, 2009 16:55 ET

Natural Resources Canada: Statement by the Honourable Lisa Raitt, P.C., M.P., Minister of Natural Resources

MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 21, 2009) -

Today, I want to reassure Canadians that our Government is working diligently to minimize the impacts of this interruption in isotope supply.

We intend to continue to keep the public regularly updated as more information becomes available.

Today, I met with Michael Binder, President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, in order to seek further assurance that the heavy water leak within the NRU poses no risk to health and safety. I was pleased to hear that all of AECL's actions are in keeping with a strong safety culture.

In addition, I met with the CEO of AECL, Hugh MacDiarmid, in order to convey our Government's concern regarding the interruption in medical isotope supply caused by the unplanned, extended shutdown of the NRU. Mr. MacDiarmid assured me that every effort is being taken by AECL to address the situation as quickly as possible.

Securing medical isotope supply is not only an issue for Canada; it's an international issue that must be addressed cooperatively by all isotope-producing countries.

Yesterday morning, I led off on a discussion, convened at Canada's request, with Nuclear Energy Agency officials and government and industry representatives in isotope-producing countries to address this issue and to encourage immediate collaboration.

I also spoke yesterday evening with my counterpart in Australia with regard to their capacity to assist with the Opal reactor.

During this extended outage at Chalk River, other isotope-producing countries have the capacity to assist in minimizing production shortfall.

These countries all have different sets of constraints and capacity, and we will need to work through those. There is good will amongst all and a willingness to be helpful. They also fully recognize that Canada stepped up to the plate and provided a significant amount of additional isotope capacity when the Petten reactor in the Netherlands was down.

While in Geneva this week, my colleague, Minister Aglukkaq, spoke to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, and she is also speaking with her Provincial and Territorial counterparts on this issue.

Minister Aglukkaq is fully engaged with all Provincial and Territorial governments and with the health care community, who are being encouraged to take planned measures such as modifying patient scheduling to maximize the supply of medical isotopes available.

Our Government is also in touch with companies such as MDS Nordion, Lantheus, and Covidien who all play key roles in securing medical isotope supply for North America.

Yesterday, Lantheus Medical Imaging announced that it has signed an agreement with a subsidiary of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation to manufacture and supply Lantheus with an ongoing volume of medical isotopes. This supply will enhance the company's ability to meet their customers' demand.

Securing medical isotope supply is not only an issue for Canada; it is an international issue that requires a co-operative, global response.

Let me be clear - we continue using all resources available to us to manage this shortfall, and we are fully engaged.

NRCan's news releases and backgrounders are available at www.nrcan.gc.ca/media.

Contact Information

  • Media may contact:
    Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa
    Office of the Honourable Lisa Raitt
    Jasmine MacDonnell
    Director of Communications
    613-996-2007
    or
    Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa
    Media Relations
    613-992-4447
    or
    The general public may contact:
    Mon-Fri, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. EDT
    Telephone: 613-995-0947
    TTY: 613-996-4397
    (teletype for the hearing-impaired)
    questions@nrcan.gc.ca