Markey Vows to Introduce Legislation to Restore Critical Nonproliferation Safeguards and Expand Medical Supply


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), the incoming Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, and the founder of the House Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation, today praised a new report by the National Academies of Sciences entitled “Medical Isotope Production Without Highly Enriched Uranium.” The report concludes that the production of critical medical isotopes, necessary for a range of advanced medical procedures such as diagnostic imaging, can be completely and cost-effectively converted away from the use of dangerous Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU), which can also be used to make nuclear weapons.

Rep. Markey said, “I have long been convinced that the United States, and indeed the world, can break its dependence on dangerous Highly-Enriched Uranium for the production of critical medical supplies.  This exhaustive study provides Congress with an authoritative analysis of this issue, proves that we can switch to Low-Enriched Uranium at negligible cost to both producers and patients, and offers sound proposals for how we should move forward.” 

The report -- which was congressionally mandated as part of the 2005 Energy Bill -- also points out that drastic shortages of medical isotopes could occur in the future, irrespective of how they are produced.  The United States possesses no domestic medical isotope production facilities, and key international suppliers rely on decades-old reactors which are increasingly unreliable. 

“The report sounds the alarm that the supply of medical isotopes could be severely damaged by outages or retirements of old reactors, endangering the availability of important medical procedures.  I look forward to introducing legislation which will both move the medical isotope industry away from its dependence on dangerous bomb materials and ensure the reliability of supply,” Rep. Markey concluded.

Chairman Markey has worked for years to eliminate the use of HEU, a dangerous nuclear weapons material, from the production of medical isotopes, because there are neither technological nor economic reasons to preclude doing so. During consideration of the 2005 Energy Bill, congressional Republicans sought to create exceptions to a provision of the Atomic Energy Act which previously had restricted the export of HEU.  Congressman Markey repeatedly offered amendments to restore the provision banning the export of HEU.  The NAS report released today substantiates Chairman Markey’s views that loosening controls on HEU exports is both dangerous and unnecessary.

A draft of the report is available at:  

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January 14, 2009

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