Canadian isotope deal draws international ire
By LEE BERTHIAUME, Postmedia News March 27, 2012
A Canadian company's deal with Russia to sell medical isotopes produced with weapons-grade uranium was criticized by the U.S. secretary of energy and other senior officials at a major nuclear security summit Monday.
But the federal government is defending the agreement, saying Canada has a responsibility for ensuring an adequate global supply of a radioactive substance used in 100,000 medical procedures every day, including cancer detection and treatment.
Ottawa-based Nordion is one of the world's largest producers and sellers of medical isotopes. Weapons-grade uranium from the United States is processed at the federal government's Chalk River, Ont., reactor, with Nordion selling the isotopes around the world.
Prompted by the threat of terrorists or criminal organizations getting their hands on the weapons-grade uranium, Canada and other countries pledged in 2010 to begin producing the radioactive substance with non-weapons-grade uranium instead.
The federal government will fulfil its 2010 promise by closing the Chalk River reactor in 2016.
But in September 2010, Nordion signed a 10-year agreement with Russia that gives the company the exclusive right to distribute and sell medical isotopes produced with weapons-grade uranium from that country.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who is attending with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said the government is committed to eliminating the use of weapons-grade uranium from medical isotope production, but also defended the Nordion deal.
"Canada is one of the few countries that has a special responsibility to humanity to provide medical isotopes," he told reporters.
"We have an important responsibility. Not just, frankly, to Canadian hospitals, doctors and the medical community, but to other countries in the world."
Nordion says the agreement provides a backup supply of isotopes for the company's customers, and that it is examining other methods to produce isotopes.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and senior officials from Belgium, France and the Netherlands on Monday announced they would be working together to convert their isotope production facilities to use non-weapons-grade uranium by 2015.
When asked about the Nordion agreement, the foreign officials voiced concerns, particularly given that the Canadian company will have an advantage over competitors moving toward using non-weapons-grade uranium.
"In the end, there's going to be a cost to any country if this material ever does fall into the wrong hands," Chu said.
Bernard Bigot, head of the French Atomic Energy Commission, said it is important for everyone to play by the same rules.
"We need to co-operate - in order to have a sustainable process to provide these medical isotopes."
Added Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal: "If these sorts of materials indeed fall into the wrong hands, the reputation of an industry is at issue.
"You can be penny-wise short term, pound-foolish long term."
Healthcare efficiency more important than posturing in Nordion isotope business
March 23, 2012
By Steve Aplin
UNRESTRICTED | ILLIMITÉ
That is correct. The legislation is the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, and specifically the “Nuclear Non-proliferation Import and Export Control Regulations” pursuant to this Act. See http://nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/about/regulated/importexport/ for details.
The Act, in turn, meets Canada’s obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which Canada was instrumental in creating forty years ago.
Implementation of the regulations involves bilateral agreements between Canada and a customer country, and the requirement for customer states to be under IAEA safeguards.
Jeremy Whitlock, PhD, FCNS
Manager, Non-Proliferation & Safeguards
Program Authority, Nuclear Criticality Safety
AECL Chalk River Laboratories, Stn. 91
Chalk River, Ontario, CANADA K0J 1J0
office: 613-584-8811 ext.44265
Hi everyone. I was giving a tour of the reactor the other day and a visitor asked me if exported Canadian uranium is used in weapons? I’m under the impression that this material is used in civilian reactors only and IAEA inspectors ensure this fuel remains undiverted. I would also like to know specifically what Canadian legislation (if it exists) prevents this use of exported uranium. Thanks in advance for any responses.
Engineering Physics (Nuclear Engineering)
1280 Main Street