Nuclear energy has received much bad press over the decades–Chernobyl and Three Mile Island come to mind immediately. Nuclear reactors are used to do more then power our computers and Xboxes–they can produce a radioisotope used in medical diagnostic tests for things such as cancer, bone disorders, and cardiovascular diseases. Something to remember the next time a debate about nuclear reactors starts among your friends.
I bring this up today not because I’ve suddenly gone pro-nuclear or because I am trying relive those few short days I consider Nuclear Engineering (no laughing!). Rather, I bring it up because the temporary closure the nuclear reactor at Chalk River, ON (where a friend works) has lead to a world-wide shortage of this medical radioisotope. This means that an untold number of people are having much needed diagnostic tests delayed until the reactor reopens and/or the radioisotope can be obtained from one of the two other reactors in the world that produce it.
Years ago I underwent a bone scan that made use of this radioisotope. It wasn’t a fun experience, but I was very thankful to learn that there was nothing seriously amiss with my bones. I can well understand how distressed those waiting for diagnostic test must be. I am especially aware because of a friend of the family, who has had one major and two minor heart attacks in the past week, is currently waiting for a test that is being delayed until the hospital can find a supply of this radioisotope.
Sadly, there was little that could have been done to prevent this shortage. The AECL is doing the right thing by taking time to make necessary repairs, and hospitals could not have stockpiled the radioisotope due to its short shelf life. Hopefully the reactor will be functioning again before the expected January timeline, and hopefully all those patiently and desperately awaiting tests will receive them quickly.
- Reactor shutdown leaves many patients in lurch
- Ontario reactor shutdown forces cancellation of cancer tests worldwide
- Radioisiotopes in our backyard – Pembroke Daily Observer (via McMaster University)
– CBC News