Last week, the Canadian Parliament approved the Nordion and Theratronics Divestiture Authorization Act (the “Nordion Act ”). How’s that for an exciting lede? Well, this could have significant impacts on the world’s supply of medical isotopes, used for nuclear imaging procedures to diagnose cancer and heart disease.
The act itself merely allows the Crown corporation to be sold to a foreign entity (in this case, the US firm, Sterigenics). But, the issue with the isotopes is that Nordion’s Chalk River research reactor is scheduled to close in 2016. The CBC article quotes an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development report:
The loss of Canada’s processing capacity in the second half of 2016 reduces current global processing capacity by approximately 25 per cent in that period.
I don’t pretend to have a solution for this or really understand all the implications. The Chalk River Lab is almost 70 years old and building a new facility would certainly take years, if not decades, to complete. The teeny, tiny, kernel of libertarian in me says that government interference in the private market leads to all sorts of distortions and skewed incentives. However, my bleeding-heart liberal side notes that governments need to serve the entire population and sometimes has to override the “free market.” Medical isotopes are necessary in modern medicine and seem to me to be worth the intervention.