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Bond holds up isotope legislation

Columbia Daily Tribune

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A battle is brewing over the need to build the U.S. capacity to produce medical isotopes, and the University of Missouri and U.S. Sen. Kit Bond are at the center of it.

Bond, a Missouri Republican, has placed a “hold” on the American Medical Isotope Production Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 400-17. The bill aims to promote U.S. production of the isotopes used in millions of medical tests annually, including cancer screenings, bone scans and screenings for heart disease.

There are five nuclear plants worldwide capable of producing the isotope known as moly-99, and all are outside the United States. Doctors and scientists have a warned of a shortage of the isotopes because of plant shutdowns and growing demand.

Bond’s legislative maneuver is preventing the bill from reaching the Senate floor.

Yesterday, a group of 19 physicians and scientists concerned with nuclear proliferation and the medical isotope shortage wrote a letter urging Bond to drop his hold on the bill.

But Bond is standing firm. He says the bill could have the exact opposite effect and actually shrink the global medical isotope supply. The bill would ban the export of highly enriched uranium for isotope production beginning seven years after the law takes effect. That ban is designed to spur other nations to convert their plants to use low-enriched uranium, which cannot be used in nuclear weapons.

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