A medical isotope is a safe radioactive substance used by health professionals to assist in the diagnosis of certain health conditions of the heart, the circulatory system and organs.
These isotopes are mainly supplied by five large government-owned reactors around the world. The majority of Canada's supply is from the National Research Universal reactor (NRU) at Chalk River, Ontario, operated by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. Other sources of supply include reactors in Europe, Australia and South Africa.
The supply disruptions of isotopes in 2007 and 2009/2010 caused by unplanned outages of the NRU highlighted the fragility of the supply chain that delivers medical isotopes, specifically technetium-99m (Tc-99m), to patients in Canada and globally. Tc-99m is the most widely used medical isotope for imaging and accounts for 80 percent of nuclear diagnostic procedures. It performs a critical role in the diagnosis of heart disease, and is also used in cancer diagnosis through bone and organ scans.
A secure medical isotope supply is an international issue, and Canada is working cooperatively with all isotope-producing countries toward sustainable solutions.
The Government of Canada is seeking options for the medium and long terms both to improve the security of supply for Canadians and to ensure the situation does not happen again.
- Government launches 2012-2016 program to further advance the development of alternatives to existing isotope production technologies
- Government 2010-2012 program to diversify and enhance isotope supply chain
- Government Responds to Expert Review Panel on Medical Isotope Production
- Minister of Natural Resources' Speeches, Statements and News Releases
- Expert Review Panel on Medical Isotope Production
- Isotopes Links