Experts Believe MAPLE Reactors Can Be Brought Into Service
OTTAWA, July 8 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ - MDS Nordion, a leading provider of medical isotopes and radiopharmaceuticals, today continued to urge the Government of Canada and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) to complete the MAPLE project to address the global shortage of medical isotopes, following the announcement earlier today by AECL that the 52-year-old National Research Universal (NRU) reactor at Chalk River, Ontario will not return to service before late 2009.
There are no domestic or international sources of supply that can fully mitigate this shortage, which has caused and will continue to cause unavoidable and serious disruptions to patient care. The Petten reactor in The Netherlands, which produces approximately 30% of the world supply of medical isotopes, is also scheduled to be shut down mid-July 2009 for approximately four weeks for scheduled maintenance; and it is expected to be taken off line again in early 2010 to repair a leak.
The fragility of the world's isotope supply can be overcome. MDS Nordion believes it is critical that the Canadian government direct AECL to honour its long-standing commitment to replace the NRU by bringing the MAPLE facilities into service. These facilities would enable Canada to maintain its leadership position in the innovative and increasingly important field of nuclear medicine.
"The Government of Canada has put forth various arguments for why the MAPLE reactors should not be started," said Steve West, President of MDS Nordion. "However, a number of organizations and scientific experts disagree with the Government's position and believe that the MAPLE reactors are safe, that the reactors work and that any technical challenges can be overcome to bring the MAPLEs into service."
"MDS continues to believe that the solution to the global medical isotope crisis is in Canada. The infrastructure is in place, and with the assistance of an international consortium of nuclear experts, the MAPLE facilities could be producing medical isotopes to the benefit of patients worldwide."
MAPLE Reactors: A Solution for Medical Isotope Supply
On June 18, 2009, at the Standing Committee on Natural Resources in Ottawa, Dr. Harold Smith, ex-Manager, MAPLE Nuclear Commissioning, HIZ and Associates Inc., testified that "I and my team took both MAPLE 1 and MAPLE 2 to criticality. We measured the positive (power coefficient of reactivity) PCR... there are two MAPLE reactors, each with the capacity to deliver more than the current world requirement (for medical isotopes). Positive PCR requires a relatively simple engineering fix to restrain the bowing of the elements and to reduce the PCR to approximately zero."
On June 11, 2009, at the Standing Committee on Natural Resources hearing in Ottawa, Jill Chitra, an engineer and Vice-President, Strategic Technologies at MDS Nordion stated that the MAPLE reactors indeed work. "From 2000 to 2008, the MAPLE reactors ran numerous times at various power levels, up to 80% power. During tests, targets were inserted into the reactor for a number of those tests. When targets are inserted in a reactor and it operates at power, isotopes are created; moly-99 is created... those targets could be removed and processed, and (if they were) you would have medical isotopes for sale." Independent expert John Waddington confirmed to the committee that they "had an accurate answer from Ms. Chitra" regarding the creation of isotopes in the MAPLE reactors.
And in its January, 2009 report, Medical Isotope Production Without Highly Enriched Uranium, The National Academy of Science Committee stated that "the Committee assumes that the worst-case scenario for fixing the MAPLE reactors involves the replacement of the reactor cores. The cost of such replacements would likely be small (tens of millions of dollars) in comparison to the cost of building a new reactor (hundreds of millions of dollars) or refurbishing the (National Research Universal) NRU (also hundreds of millions of dollars according to a representative of Natural Resources Canada).
Other Longer-Term Supply Alternatives
In addition to MAPLE, MDS Nordion will continue to examine other supply alternatives. On June 15, 2009, MDS Nordion announced an agreement with the Karpov Institute of Physical Chemistry in Russia to study the feasibility of the Karpov Institute providing the Company with a viable and reliable supply of Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) for the global nuclear medicine market. And on April 28, 2009, MDS Nordion announced an agreement with TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, to study the feasibility of producing a viable and reliable supply of photo fission-based Mo-99.
As previously disclosed, the financial impact of this extended interruption is expected to reduce MDS Nordion's adjusted EBITDA by approximately US$4 million per month.
Additional background about MDS Nordion, the MAPLE project and medical isotope supply can be found on MDS Inc.'s Website at http://www.mdsinc.com/for_media/electronic_media_kit.asp#nordion
About MDS Nordion
MDS Nordion, a business unit of MDS Inc., is a global leader in providing medical isotopes for molecular and diagnostic imaging, radiotherapeutics and sterilization technologies for medical products that benefit the lives of millions of people in more than 50 countries around the world. MDS Nordion products and services are used on a daily basis by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, medical-device manufacturers, hospitals, clinics and research laboratories. Find out more at www.mdsnordion.com
MDS Inc. (TSX: MDS; NYSE: MDZ) is a global life sciences company that provides market-leading products and services that our customers need for the development of drugs, and the diagnosis and treatment of disease. We are a leading global provider of pharmaceutical contract research, medical isotopes for molecular imaging, radiotherapeutics, and analytical instruments. MDS has more than 4,200 highly skilled people in 13 countries. Find out more at www.mdsinc.com or by calling 1-888-MDS-7222, 24 hours a day.
This document contains forward-looking statements. Some forward-looking statements may be identified by words like "expects", "anticipates", "plans", "intends", "indicates", "targeted" or similar expressions. The statements are not a guarantee of future impact or performance and are inherently subject to risks and uncertainties. The actual impact to the Company of the NRU shutdown could differ materially from that currently anticipated due to a number of factors, including, the actual timing of a return to full production and other risk factors identified in other documents filed by the Company with Canadian and U.S. securities regulatory authorities from time to time.
SOURCE MDS Nordion