Whooee! Well, friends an' foes, seems like these here Conservative ministers is their own worst enemies. Instead of throwin' a lifeline to their flounderin' colleagues, they sit on their hands and watch 'em splash an' drown. Instead of pullin' out the rabbit they got in their hat, they play dumb... or, are they actually just as uninformed as they let on?
While Ministers Raitt and Aglukkaq continue to demonstrate their incompetence, real progress is being made in the field of isotope production. While Prime Minister Harper tells us Canada is throwing in the towel on future isotope manufacture and supply, Canadian research and technology is moving forward achieving just what Harper says is not feasible.
One wonders why Raitt, Aglukkaq and Harper seem unable to even attempt to fend off opposition questions with real answers that would put their government in a much better light. Although it seems improbable, it appears that none of the politicians are up to speed on what is happening under their very noses.
Back in November 2008, TRIUMF : Canada's National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics, the University of British Columbia and Advanced Applied Physics Solutions, Inc. (AAPS) released a report “proposing a uniquely Canadian method for producing select medical isotopes which avoids using weapons-grade uranium and nuclear reactors.”
More recently, MDS Nordion, the same company that purchases and distributes all of the Chalk River isotopes, entered into a commercial agreement with TRIUMF “to study the feasibility of producing a viable and reliable supply of photo-fission-produced molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) used globally for diagnostic medical imaging.”
While Harper and his crew of liquidators are intent on selling the farm at bargain basement prices and abandoning Canada’s formerly respected role in the field of nuclear medicine, Canadian researchers and business interests are working outside the AECL framework to deliver much-needed isotopes using a safer, cheaper technology. While Harper and his nuclear grease monkeys are applying duct tape and Bondo to Chalk River’s 52 year old clunker, forward thinking scientists are developing an alternative source of Molybdenum-99.
While Harper and his inexperienced cabinet ministers sputter about securing isotopes from international sources, UBC, TRIUMF and MDS Nordion are forging ahead on a highly promising plan that, incredibly, was the subject of an announcement by Ministers Raitt and Aglukkaq less than two weeks ago.
29 May 2009
Yesterday, Canada's Minister of Natural Resources Lisa Raitt and Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq announced the Government's plan to establish an Expert Review Panel for Long-Term Isotope Supply Solutions. TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, supports these steps and looks forward to contributing to the process.
Why, one wonders, did neither Raitt nor Aglukkaq point to this development when they faced tough questioning in the House? Is it possible that the announcement, though seemingly made jointly by their own offices, was unknown to the ministers?
Now, let’s move along to part two of the ministers not knowing what’s happening under their noses. This time, we have former Health Minister and current Industry Minister Tony Clement remaining silent in the House while his hapless colleagues Raitt and Aglukkaq squirm under questioning about what they are doing to ease the shortage of isotopes.
Odd, since it was just about a week earlier, on June 1, that Clement announced $22 million in new funding to upgrade McMaster University’s research reactor, part of which was designated “to expand Canada's isotope research and production capacity.” Although $22 million is a piddly amount by nuclear standards, Clement could have come to the aid of his fellow cabinet members with at least one concrete example of what Canada is doing to increase domestic isotope production. Additionally, unlike Chalk River’s NRU, the Mac reactor is currently operational and presumably could be producing some of the needed isotopes while the repairs to the NRU are being carried out.
When PM Harper told us yesterday that Canada is getting out of the isotope business, did he not know that his industry minister, just 10 short days ago, had doled out $22 million to expand Canada's isotope production capacity.
Don't these ministers talk to one another? Don't they even read their own press releases?