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LBJ School Professor Alan Kuperman Speaks Out on Canadian Medical Isotope Shortage

AUSTIN, Texas-- June 16, 2009-- When the nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ontario, which produces one-third of the world’s medical isotopes, shut down on May 14 over safety concerns, it created a worldwide crisis in the field of nuclear imaging.

Medical isotopes are used in the effective detection and evaluation of patients with cancer, heart and brain diseases. With a shortage of isotopes, doctors are being forced to resort to other more costly and invasive procedures.

LBJ School Professor Alan Kuperman has been lending his expertise to the issue after organizing and drafting a letter to the U.S. Congress, with other non-proliferation experts and medical experts, urging Washington to start domestic production using low-enriched uranium (LEU), which is not weapons grade.

According to a press release issued by the letter-writers, “American patients depend on such isotopes for nearly 20 million medical procedures each year, but the United States does not produce any itself, relying entirely on imports.  Complicating matters further, most foreign manufacturers currently produce isotopes using nuclear weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium (HEU) – the same material that fueled the Hiroshima atom bomb – which is controversial.”

The crisis is expected to worsen when a European reactor, which produces a third of the world’s supply of medical isotopes, will close for scheduled maintenance this summer.

For more information, contact Alan Kuperman, 512-471-8245, or


Press Release and Letter to Congress “Medical and Nonproliferation Groups Unite to Confront Dire Shortage of Medical Isotopes.” - PDF


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CMJA - Shortage no more: Fixing the isotope supply chain - July 27, 2009

Exchange Monitor - House, Senate Poised to Take Action on Medical Isotope Shortage - July 20, 2009

The Wallstreet Journal - MDS Nordion Not Giving Up On Isotope Business If Canada Does- July 10, 2009

Canwest News Service - U.S. to jump-start domestic isotope production - July 10, 2009

The Toronto Star - U.S. is poised to enter medical isotope market - July 10, 2009

Houston Examiner - Critical US medical radioisotope shortage sparks Obama administration response - July 9, 2009

Modern HealthCare - Isotopes on the Ropes - June 22, 2009

Ottawa Citizen – Isotope Shortage a Flashpoint, at Home, Abroad – June 15, 2009

CBC Radio, As It Happens – Isotope Future – June 12, 2009

CBC Radio One, The House – June 13, 2009