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Public Health and Nuclear Experts Warn Against Importing Russian Medical Isotopes

Associate Professor Alan Kuperman, Coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project, Signs Letter to Congress Urging for Amendment to Medical Isotope Act

Alan KupermanAUSTIN, Texas, January 18, 2011 -- Associate Professor Alan Kuperman, coordinator of the School's Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project (NPPP), joined a broad coalition of U.S. public health, medical and nuclear proliferation experts in signing a letter urging Congress to restrict the use of imported Russian medical isotopes produced with bomb-grade uranium and to block them completely within about five years. According to a press release issued by the NPPP, American patients receive about 16 million medical diagnostic procedures annually using the type of isotope in question, which is derived by Molybdenum-99.

Writing to key legislators, the experts criticized Russia for rapidly expanding its use of “highly enriched” – or nuclear weapons-grade – uranium to produce medical isotopes so that it can dominate this sector of the U.S. health-care market. According to the authors of the letter, if successful, the Russian initiative would undermine Washington’s efforts to promote domestic production of medical isotopes without bomb-grade uranium and to phase-out global commerce in such uranium. According to the letter, Russia’s plan threatens to render the domestic “supply of these vital isotopes vulnerable to air-traffic interruptions, such as from recent volcanic eruptions,” while also “escalating risks of nuclear terrorism.”

The experts urged Congress to amend a bill recently passed by the Senate, “The American Medical Isotopes Production Act,” to require “preferential procurement” of medical isotopes produced without bomb-grade uranium.

Such an amendment, the experts wrote, is essential to “promote a reliable domestic supply of vital medical isotopes, while minimizing [bomb-grade uranium] commerce.”

NPPP Press Release and Letter

For more information, contact: Professor Alan J. Kuperman, akuperman@mail.utexas.edu, 512-471-8245

Related:

Letter urges Congress not to import Russian medical isotopes - The Examiner, Jan. 18. 2012

Loophole in Senate bill may create nuclear risks - The Center for Public Integrity iwatch News, Jan. 27, 2012