To the Standing Committee on Natural Resources “Study of the Atomic Energy Canada Limited Facility at Chalk River and the Status of the Production of Medical Isotopes”
Good afternoon, my name is Steve West, Chief Operating Officer of MDS Inc. and President of MDS Nordion. Accompanying me is Jill Chitra, Vice-President Strategic Technologies for MDS Nordion.
Today I would like to focus my remarks on the following:
the current status of the medical isotope supply shortage
the future of long-term medical isotope availability
and Canada’s critical role in the nuclear industry
In order to better appreciate the industry in which we are a global leader, MDS Nordion often works to understand the perspectives of the medical community. Recent market intelligence has led to a better comprehension regarding the impact of the medical isotope shortage on the North American and European Technetium-99m (Tc-99m) end user market. Although our work is qualitative and directional it does provide relevant observations of the impact. We believe further quantitative research would validate these findings.
From our market research, we learned the following:
Not surprisingly, the 2009 NRU shutdown has resulted in a significant decrease in Tc-99m supply to hospitals and clinics.
Hospitals have altered their behaviour to mitigate effects of the shortage but in ways not perceived as sustainable for the long term. Based on our review, we estimate there has been a15% decline in Tc-99m administered doses in North America and Europe due to the current supply shortage. The actual impact of the medical isotope shortage, however, is greater than this estimation, but due to changes in patient scheduling, work hours and greater overall efficiency of preparing and administering Tc-99m to patients, the medical community has reduced the impact.
However, many end-users we have spoken with believe this is not sustainable for the long-term.
2 In addition, and of critical importance, is that our discussions indicate Canada has been the hardest hit across North America and Europe, where we estimate a greater than 35% reduction in Tc-99m end use supply. This is significantly greater than the US impact we estimate of approximately 20% and of the impact in Europe, which we see as negligible. Based on expected supply scheduling in the global supply network, the outlook for 2010 is not any better, and in fact, has the potential of being much worse. The HFR reactor in Petten will require an estimated shutdown of 26 weeks starting in mid-February.
Potentially, there will be a 6 week time period where both HFR and NRU are scheduled to be out of service, representing approximately 70% of the global medical isotope supply. This assumes that there are no issues with the NRU and HFR restarts. Any delays will only magnify the severity, increasing the periods of shortages. The impact becomes critical both here in Canada and globally. In addition, specifically in the April to September 2010 timeframe, there is the potential to have periods of time where only 1 or 2 reactors are operating due to regularly scheduled reactor maintenance shutdowns. As well, new supply entrants which expected to be on line earlier this year continue to be delayed.
The completion of the NRU repairs are imperative. The CNSC has currently granted the NRU a license to operate until 2011, and the Government has asked AECL to apply for an extension of that license. This will assist in furthering the life of the NRU reactor. We strongly support these efforts.