Us nonproliferation policies and canada's medical-isotope industry: A case study in nuclear ambivalence
This article analyzes how US nonproliferation policies that sought to curtail US exports of highly enriched uranium (HEU) affected Canada’s medical-isotope industry and, particularly, the Canadian MAPLE (Multipurpose Applied Physics Lattice Experiment) reactors project. US HEU-export policies established between 1978 and 2012 highlight the “nuclear ambivalence” of the Canadian isotope industry’s flagship product, molybdenum-99 (Mo-99)—a life-saving commodity widely used by US hospitals but also a material whose production process, based on HEU, came to be perceived as a potential threat to US and world security. The ambivalent status of Mo-99 production was reinforced by a state of mutual dependence between the two countries: On the one hand, Canada depended entirely on US HEU exports to maintain its dominant position in the Mo-99 world market and could not turn to other sources of HEU supply. On the other hand, US hospitals relied mainly on Mo-99 of Canadian origin, which limited the US government’s ability to enforce its policy by suspending its HEU exports to Canada. As a result, US and Canadian efforts to convert the Canadian isotope facilities to low-enriched uranium were thwarted by tensions between global security, public health, and commercial stakes, which led ultimately to ending Canada’s Mo-99 production.
Khelfaoui, M. (2023). Us nonproliferation policies and canada's medical-isotope industry: A case study in nuclear ambivalence. The Nonproliferation Review, 1-19