When you listen to Remainers talk about the EU and the UK, you could be forgiven for thinking that they revel in our national weaknesses.

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We are constantly being told by Remain campaigners that without the EU the United Kingdom would no longer function.

In fact I hear an almost triumphal sound in their voices as they do our nation down as too weak and insignificant to be able to look after itself.

They revel, yes revel, in their belief that we must be assimilated or perish.

And one of the arguments they use is access to nuclear medicine.

As part of Brexit we are leaving the EU and Euratom. Now Euratom did not start as part of the EU, it was and still is technically outside the EU.

But Euratom is coming more and more under EU influence and it has its own freedom of movement of nuclear workers within the Euratom agreement. So when triggering the Article 50 process it was decided that the UK would also sever links with Euratom.

But Remainers point to us leaving Euratom and claim that could stop us importing nuclear isotopes for the detection and cure of cancer. Although the government does deny this.

But as, I believe, over 80% of the elements used are imported using the Euratom based procedures you could be sucked into thinking that the EU is wonderful and we have to stay in it.

But when you dig beneath the surface you start to realise that all is not as it seems.

Let's start with the main elements, Technetium-99 or Tc-99 and Molybdinum-99 or Mo-99.

The first and main of those, Tc-99, has a half life of just six hours. So an element called a 'Tc-99 generator' is used to transport it from the manufacture to the hospital – and that Tc-99 generator is Mo-99. But Mo-99 has a half life of only sixty-six hours itself.

That means that whatever you use requires fast and efficient transport from maker to user. Because you cannot stockpile them.

And this is where the Remainers come in and say that we must stay in the EU to ensure that the supply and transport of nuclear medicines are preserved.

But there are major problems with that simplistic argument.

According to a recent report 60-70% of the Mo-99 produced globally is made using a non-power research reactors.

And most Mo-99 is supplied by Australia, Belgium, Netherlands and South Africa. With the US and Russia starting to come on line as suppliers.

And in most cases the Mo-99 supply comes from ageing reactors that have long and sometimes unexpected shut downs. In 2009 and 2010 this led to shortages.

In fact Hitachi reports that:

"A serious supply crunch of Molybdenum-99 has occurred worldwide when the long-term shutdown of the research reactor with the largest production coincided with the long disruption in air traffic due to the Icelandic volcanic eruption in April 2010."

And things are not getting better.

As a Houses of Parliament post-note says:

"Most research reactors that produce 99Mo were built in the 1950s and 1960s and are approaching the end of their lifespans, increasing the length of shutdowns for routine maintenance and the likelihood of unplanned outages. Investment in new facilities has been limited."

And, as I understand it, the UK has no research reactors capable of producing Mo-99.

The vital component of Tc-99 can be made in cyclotrons, but the UK doesn't have powerful enough units to do this.

Talk about the consecutive failure of governments.

And the post-note also points to the vulnerabilities in the current Euratom supply chain that the Remainers so glory in, saying:

"In 2008 the closure of the channel tunnel after a fire led to a short-term shortage of Mo-99, and industrial action in Calais in 2015 also delayed deliveries. Extending transport routes (for example, importing from Australia) also reduces the amount of Mo-99 left as it decays."

So, does limited investment and having long unreliable supply chains for a vital element with a lower shelf life than a strawberry, sound sensible to you?

It sounds like an atrocious failure by politicians over decades to me.

Oh, and don't forget all those Greenies who campaign against nuclear fission.

Our politicians past and present have put the people of the UK into the position where we are reliant on other countries to invest, supply and transport this stuff to us.

And to do the right thing and get our own domestic supply up and running would, according to the Parliament post-note, only take about £250-400 million – but crucially it would take also ten years to do it.

The UK was the first to bring a commercial nuclear power reactor on line – how low have we sunk!

So, don't you think we should be investing that £250-400 million, as well as the ten years, and get going on a long term strategy to become self reliant where nuclear medicines are concerned – it would also surely take the UK back to the forefront of this important technological area.

Sources:

http://www.scientistsforeu.uk/medical_radioisotopes_nodeal

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/First-neutron-accelerator-delivered-to-Mo99-facili

https://ec.europa.eu/euratom/docs/24909.pdf

https://www.hitachi.com/New/cnews/101115b.html

Houses of Parliament Post Not 558 July 2017 – Supply of Medical Radioisotopes

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