Democratic News

Opening Statement – Feb. 1, 2011
 
American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2011
 
“Today’s hearing is on Senate Bill, S. 99, the American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2011.  This bill is essentially the same bill that was reported out of Committee last Congress unanimously, except the program’s authorization is lowered by $20 million to account for the fact we are now in Fiscal Year 2011.  I am pleased to have Senator Murkowski as a co-sponsor of this measure.
 
“The purpose of the legislation is to develop a reliable domestic supply of molybdenum-99, the parent isotope for technetium-99m, which is used for 18 million, or 85 percent, of the medical isotope procedures performed annually in the United States.  We currently have no domestic supply of this isotope and we rely on aging reactors in Canada and Europe to produce it.  For the first time, the reactors in Canada and Europe were shut down last July and August for maintenance that resulted in the suspension of thousands of medical imaging procedures. This bill will correct the problem by authorizing the Department of Energy to work with U.S. companies to produce a reliable domestic supply of molybdenum-99 in order to avoid a future shortage.
 
“This bill also proposes a 14-year phase out of exporting of highly enriched uranium, which is used to produce these isotopes.  It seems to me that since we are now negotiating with Iran to supply their medical isotope reactor with low enriched fuel - we ought to lead by example and phase out the export of the weapons grade uranium to produce these isotopes.  The technology exists to produce molybdenum-99 from low enriched uranium – South Africa and Australia are currently doing so.   This bill authorizes the Department of Energy to enter into cooperative agreements, and for U.S. companies to do so as well.
 
“I want to thank the witnesses who are appearing today.  Two of the witnesses testified on this bill last Congress, Dr. Staples and Mr. Brown.  I thank you for appearing again today.  She is the technical expert from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has submitted formal written comments on the bill.  Ms. Doane will not have an opening statement today but will be at the witness table to answer any questions on the on how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission manages the export of special nuclear material such as the highly enriched uranium used to produce molybdenum-99.”
 
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