medical radioisotopes

Medical Impact of US Sanctions Drives Iran’s Need for 20% Enriched Uranium

While Western media routinely proclaim the danger of Iran enriching uranium to 20% since it is “just a few short steps” from the 90%+ enrichment needed for producing nuclear weapons, what is often overlooked is the role that Western sanctions on Iran play in forcing Iran to carry out this 20% enrichment. Iran treats 850,000 patients a year with medical radioisotopes and has only a 40 year old research reactor in Tehran for producing isotopes. Despite attempts by neocons to claim that the sanctions have exceptions for humanitarian goods, the reality is that the sanctions forced Iran to produce new fuel for the Tehran reactor and we see today a mention in the Iranian press suggesting that four new research reactors are planned so that Iran can produce more radiomedicines domestically.

Here is how the medical isotope situation was described by Thomas Erdbrink three years ago:

The impending shortage of technetium-99 is caused by the controversy surrounding the Iranian nuclear program. The sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, aimed at moving Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program, are supposed to leave medical practice unaffected. In reality, however, Iran has become unable to procure a wide range of medical products. Body scanners cannot be imported from the US or the EU, since parts in these machines could also be useful to Iran’s nuclear program. An embargo on medical isotopes was introduced in 2007, in defiance of the medical exception clause touted as part of the trade sanctions, Iranian leaders said.

Isotopes are a rare commodity produced at only five sites worldwide. One of these, the High Flux Reactor in the Dutch town of Petten, currently accounts for 30 to 40 percent of worldwide production, but it is scheduled for retirement soon. Apart from the UN sanctions, so many restrictions — particularly American — on trade with Iran exist, that in practice nobody is willing to supply Iran with medical isotopes any longer.

Out of dire necessity, Iran now uses its 41-year-old research reactor in Tehran — originally constructed by the US — exclusively for isotope production, a job which used to take only a day a week. However, the reactor’s fuel, provided by Argentina in 1993, is quickly running out, the scientists said.

The situation had not improved by late 2010:

Iran imports some ready-made isotopes, but it has faced greater restrictions under UN sanctions and has to pay higher prices to get them. Sanctions do not directly ban the sale to Iran of medical equipment, but they make foreign producers more reluctant to provide it, and those who will sell it do so at inflated prices.

“We are paying twice the value of this product to import it from Turkey,” said Mohammad Reza Ramezani, an official at Shariati Hospital, pointing to a cargo of technetium-99, the most common radioisotope used in diagnosis, that arrived from Turkey at day earlier.

Iran did indeed embark on its plan to enrich to 20% and has converted a significant portion of that 20% enriched uranium to fuel plates for the Tehran reactor, a move that leaves the uranium more difficult to subject to further enrichment to weapons grade. However, many have noted that Iran now has produced much more fuel than would be needed in the near future by the Tehran reactor and yet enrichment to 20% continues. At the end of a story carried today by Fars News Agency praising Iran’s accomplishments in nuclear technology, though, we see that Iran now plans additional research reactors. It appears that these reactors will supply material for more domestically produced radiomedicines: Continue reading

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz RT @DanCBarr: @bmaz They will probably rule quickly. Reinhardt wrote Perry and Smith-Kline. Berzon joined in Smith-Kline. Gould wrote Witt.…
5mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV “@TBTimes_Rays: Good play by #Rays Longoria on bad throw by Hanigan to catch Bogaerts stealing 3B” Cartwheel tag.
14mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @etb714 @wellsbennett Okay, that is an awesomely cute picture.
36mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV RT @JohnHorneUK: This award winning pic was taken in #Bahrain in Feb 2011. In July 2014 the photographer was arrestd & tortured for it http…
41mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @DanCBarr Agree. I'm just still disappointed in Reinhardt's Romer based watered down Perry decision. Hope they get this decision out quickly
57mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV Things are getting a bit stir-crazy in the @SunSportsRays booth. I think Brian just asked a pitch out on a date with him. "That's gorgeous!"
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @adamsteinbaugh @APribetic Feel free to give her my best. Take a stun gun.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @DanCBarr I was musing to someone few minutes ago that it might be advantageous if Reinhardt let Berzon write the opinion, but doubt he will
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @APribetic @adamsteinbaugh Don't use that term on Twitter. Ever. It is always best unheard of and from.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @chrisgeidner After that pulled punch bastardization in Perry, would almost like to see Berzon write it. She is very good.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @chrisgeidner @EQCF Can't beat that panel. Excellent!
1hreplyretweetfavorite
September 2014
S M T W T F S
« Aug    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930