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Bond blocks bill to expand nuclear medicine tests

St. Louis Post Dispatch

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A legislative maneuver by Missouri Sen. Kit Bond is keeping debate about expanded U.S. production of a cancer-detecting nuclear isotope on hold.

The state's senior senator, a Republican, has blocked Senate debate on the American Medical Isotope Production Act. The bill aims to increase domestic production of the isotopes used in medical tests such as bone scans and cancer and heart disease screenings. The measure passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 400-17.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that Bond says the bill will decrease the global supply of medical isotopes by preventing the export of highly enriched uranium, a substance that is also a critical ingredient in nuclear weapons. No American nuclear reactors currently make the medical isotope known as moly-99.

A group of 19 physicians and scientists concerned with nuclear proliferation and the medical isotope shortage have asked Bond to drop his hold on the bill.
Five nuclear plants worldwide can produce the isotope _ each outside the United States. Doctors and scientists warned of a shortage because of plant shutdowns and growing demand.

The bill would ban the export of highly enriched uranium starting seven years after the law took effect. Bond says that's too soon before U.S. research reactors could produce medical isotopes, meaning a reduction in the global supply. The ban is intended to persuade other nations to convert their plants to use low-enriched uranium, which cannot be used to make weapons.

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