Morgan Liddick: The anti-nuclear folks have gone too far | SummitDaily.com
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Morgan Liddick: The anti-nuclear folks have gone too far

MORGAN LIDDICK
And On the Right
Morgan Liddick
ALL |

If you were planning to get a radionuclide bone or heart scan next year, better sign up now. Better yet, do it last week. Hospitals and other test sites are already cutting back on various non-emergency tests and scans; in a few months, we may be down to 30 percent or less of the scans we did nationwide last year.

No, this isn’t a preview of the health care rationing that will come with Hillarycare. And no, people are not suddenly so much sicker that demand for scans and tests has skyrocketed. Nor does it come from the kind of expensive preventative medicine practiced when hospitals worry about the six trial lawyers accompanying every patient who has a hangnail removed. The reason is much simpler, and therefore instructive.

The current lack-‘o-scans is caused by a shortage of technitium-99, a byproduct of the radioactive decay of molybdenum. An isotope with a relatively short half-life of six hours, it is the workhorse of nuclear medicine, and is used in about half of all radionuclide scans and tests in the U.S. At least it used to be.

The problem is, we don’t make much of it here anymore. It has to be imported, and our Canadian source has dried up for the moment. So, if your doctor wants to check to see how your kidneys, bones, heart or lungs are working, or wants to check on the progress of your cancer treatment, get used to the fact that you’ll be standing in line.

For a while.

By the way, don’t ” to quote the South Park tune ” “Blame Canada.” All they did was stop their reactor for maintenance. No, blame Berkeley instead. And San Francisco. And any of the boatload of knuckleheads who gleefully put up “Nuclear Free Zone” signs without the slightest thought about where they will go for dental X-rays. Yes, that comes courtesy of radiation. Deal with it.

These folks, whose knee-jerk opposition to anything modified by the word “nuclear” have pretty much crippled our ability to supply ourselves with medical radio-isotopes and the industrial radiological materials we need to do things like test oil pipelines for leaks and airplane wings for cracks. You really didn’t think FAA inspectors all had X-ray vision, like Superman … Did you?

Our problem has become acute because opposition from anti-nukers and “not-in-my-backyard” activists has shut down all but two United States reactors producing important medical and industrial radionuclides ” one at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and the other at the University of Missouri.

But these facilities are old and need to be modernized. Whether they will be, in view of the squawks from opponents, is an open question. The shortage of technitium-99 and other radioisotopes sends a clear message: We must boost America’s production of these materials. Without them, not only will medical procedures be delayed or made unavailable; not only will product testing be curtailed; but homeland security itself would be damaged ” since radioisotopes are used in airport scanners to detect explosives and radioactive materials. I assume we care about these things.

Rebuilding our nation’s ability to supply itself with critical nuclear materials will require time, so the sooner we begin, the better. The longer we wait, the more perilous our situation will be and the more expensive the fix.

Yes, the process will need funds.

It will also demand dedication and the ability to ignore those who hear the word “nuclear” and threaten to hold their collective breath until you turn blue. In most cases, this crowd of oppositionists is driven not by any interest in, or understanding of, the science or technology involved, but by pure, unreasoning fear ” fanned by decades of mythmaking by the Luddites of the Left.

There’s another message here. In our public discussions, emotion increasingly trumps reason, even when the stakes are high. Fear generated by that devil-word “radiation” is wielded by eco-mullahs to crush any development of a U.S. nuclear industry. One might reasonably point out that residents of Summit County are exposed to twice as much radiation annually than those who live at sea level, and many times that of someone living close to a nuclear power plant, but that inconvenient truth is never heard. It isn’t politically popular.

The result is a good example of what one might call the “Longhorn Effect”. It doesn’t matter how it starts ” a coyote howl, a snapping twig or a sudden appearance of the Hindu God Ganesh.

If a few Longhorn cattle get spooked you’re going to have a stampede, as the rest of the herd joins in mindless flight. In this case we’re headed for a cliff, so let’s hope we can get a handle on things before we go over.

Or you might as well kiss your heart scan goodbye.


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