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Medical isotope future in doubt 


The Manitoban 

Minister Stephen Harper announced 
in June that Canada would not extend 
its commitment to producing medi¬ 
cal isotopes at the National Research 
Universal (NRU) reactor at the Chalk 
River facility beyond 2016. 

The announcement has put the spot- 
light on the medical isotope industry 
and called its apparent fragility into 

Medical isotopes such as Cobalt-60 
produced by reactors like the NRU are 
used often for both treatment and diag¬ 
nosis. The injection of medical isotopes 
into the body can help doctors diagnose 
heart disease, cancer and even provide 
high-resolution images of bones that 
can be superior to X-rays. Used for 
treatment, the energy given off by the 
isotopes can lie directed toward cancer 
cells, killing them. 

The Chalk River NRU reactor has 
become a major global supplier of med¬ 
ical isotopes, providing an estimated 60 
per cent of the world’s isotope needs, 
and can produce enough material to 
treat 76,000 people per day. 

The facility was set to be decom¬ 
missioned in 2005 and replaced by 
two new reactors. However, despite 
12 years of continuous development. 
Atomic Energy of Canada limited 
(AEC'L) announced in May 2008 that 
the development of the new reactors 
would be abandoned due to uncor- 
rectable design flaws. 

After this failure, the Canadian 
Nuclear Safety Commission (GNSC) 
renewed the NRU reactor's license in 
2006 on the condition that the reac- 


(ALMOST) ALL USED UP The Chalk River Facility is on its last leg of operations. 

tor underwent upgrades to ensure safety precaution during power 

the integrity of the cooling system. outages in Eastern Ontario and 

In November 2007, the reactor was Quebec. Following the shutdown, 

shut down to perform the upgrades; heavy water was found leaking 

however the work took longer titan from a corroded spot on the reactor, 

expected, creating a global shortage of prompting the AECL to keep the reac- 

medical isotopes. tor offline for three months while 

On December 17, 2007. against repairs were carried out. 
recommendations of the head of the Due to their reactivity, nuclear iso- 
CNSC Linda Keen, the government topes have a short shelf-life, so the cur- 

of Canada opted to restart the NRU rent shutdown of the NRU reactor has 

reactor to satisfy global demand and a created the potential for another inter- 

shortage of medical isotopes. At the national isotope shortage, 

time. Keen commented that the risk of Harper said on June 17 that tlie 
an accident occurring at Chalk River Canadian government would seek 
was " 1,000 times greater than inter- to extend the license of Chalk River's 
national standards." NRU reactor beyond 2011 to 2016, but 

Keen's disagreement with Gary that Canada may fook to get out of the 
Lunn. the federal minister of Natural medical isotope business following 
Resources at the time, over the safety its decommission. Currently no new 
of the Chalk River facility led to her reactors have been commissioned- 
dismissal in January 2008. Since then. With aging production facilities, the 
the opposition parties have raised ques- planned shutdown of the NRU reactor 

lions about the motivation behind her and no new reactors on ti»e horizon, 

firing and government interference in practitioners and patients of nuclear 

regulatory bodies such as the CNSC. medicine liave reason to be concerned 
In May 2009 Chalk River's NRU until a long-term solution to the sltort- 
reactor was shut down again as a age is found. 

Author challenges common 
view of Canadian history 


CUP Opinion Bureau Chief 

SASKATOON (CUP) — Yves Engler 
has laid out a difficult task for him¬ 
self Although most Canadians believe 
Canada’s foreign policy is built on peace¬ 
keeping and resolving conflicts. Engler is 
out to disprove such notions. 

Engler's lltird book. The Black Book 
of Canadian foreign Policy, recounts the 
many instances vvlien Canada fell short 
of its peaceful image abroad. 

The shocking cliarges in the book 
include Canada’s failed attempt to estab¬ 
lish colonies in the Caribbean after 
WWI, tacit support for the apartheid 
regime of South Africa, and helping 
to establish the brutal dictatorship of 
Augusto Pinochet in Chile. 

Engler also asserts that former Prime 
Minister Lester B. Pearson might be 
considered a vvar criminal for his dip¬ 
lomatic role during the Vietnam War. 
Pearson. who is die father of Canada's 
peacekeeping image, is often remem¬ 
bered as being against the Vietnam War. 
hit Engler lielieves his slight disagree¬ 
ment about the conduct of die war lias 
been mythologized inio an anti-war 
view Pearson didn’t actually hold. 

"If you take courses in Canadian 
university about foreign policy, you 
don't, in my opinion, get a very good 
understanding about die true history of 
Canada's role in the world.” 

Engler says there is a "soft national¬ 
ism" in scliools that is further propa¬ 
gated by the media that assumes an 
unquestioning look at Canada's actions 

"I think it's obviously systemic in 

that basically all powerful institutions 
support the mylliology in one way or 
anodier," he said. 

Ultimately it was events in Haiti that 
inspired the writing of The Black Book 
of Canadian Foreign Policy. In 2004, 
a struggle erupted lietween Haiti's 
democratically elected president Jean- 
Bertrand Aristide and opposition forces. 
According to Aristide, he was forced 
from power by the American. French, 
and Canadian governments for a more 
compliant government. Canadian offi¬ 
cials dispute this claim. 

“There was just too much evidence 
that Canadian politicians, police train¬ 
ers, military, et cetera, knew what they 
were doing [...] The reality was a hir- 
rible devastation to die most impover¬ 
ished nation in the hemisphere," said 
Engler. who lias travelled to Haiti. 

Inspired to expose the truth al.xiut 
Canada’s involvement in Haiti, Engler 
co-wrote Canada in Haiti: Waging War 
on the fbor Majority. However, wlien 
Engler tried to present his findings to 
fellow Canadians he was often met with 
skepticism. Tills led Engler to dig deeper 
in his latest bciok- 

The Black Book of Canadian Foreign 
Polic)' attacks almost everything 
most patriotic Canadians hold sacred: 
Canada’s peacekeeping image, standing 
up to American power, and foreign aid 
that supposedly helps the devetoping 
world. Engels disputes critics who might 
claim lie is unpatriotic or that he hales 

"I played junior hockey, I’m bilingual, 
and 1 wrote most of die book at Tim 
Hortons. 1 drink dial gives me pretty 
good Canadian credentials." 

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