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Nuclear fall out; HEALTH RISK CALLS FOR RETHINK Experts at loggerheads with Tories over Brexit plan to quit EU atomic watchdog and put hospital scans for cancer patients at risk.

Byline: Political Editor DAVID CLEGG

THE treatment of thousands of cancer patients could be put at risk if Brexit Britain withdraws from Europe's nuclear watchdog, a Scots MP warned last night.

And the diagnosis of hundreds of thousands more sufferers could be delayed if Theresa May ploughs on with her plan to pull out of Euratom.

Central Ayrshire MP Dr Philippa Whitford sounded the warning as even Eurosceptic Tories questioned the wisdom of the move.

Euratom is the shortened name for the European Atomic Energy Community, which is under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice but not the EU. Despite this, the UK Government gave notice to leave the organisation when it triggered Brexit in March.

Euratom regulate the nuclear industry in Europe, safeguarding the transport of nuclear materials, the disposal of waste and carrying out research.

The Royal College of Radiologists (RCG) fear leaving the organisation could restrict UK access to imported radioactive isotopes that are widely used in scans and treatment.

President Nicola Strickland said: "Radioactive isotopes play a crucial role in diagnosing and treating cancer in the UK.

"The RCG are seriously concerned about continued access to these materials if we leave the Euratom treaty under Brexit."

A Westminster debate yesterday focused on Britain potentially running short of the raw materials for nuclear power stations if it leaves Euratom.

MPs from across the political divide also raised concerns about the risks to high-paid and highly skilled jobs.

Ex-breast cancer medic Whitford said thousands of patients are treated with isotopes every year in the UK, with up to 500,000 more given scans that use similar materials.

She said: "My concern is that the health side of this isn't high enough up the agenda. We're at risk of throwing all this out just because Theresa May has a bee in her bonnet about the European Court of Justice."

Labour's shadow Brexit Minister Paul Blomfield warned: "If May doesn't shift her position on Euratom, Parliament will shift it for her."

However, Business and Energy Minister Richard Harrington said: "We do not believe that leaving Euratom will have any adverse effects on the supply of medical radio isotopes."

BRITAIN imports almost all radioactive medical isotopes used to treat various cancers - mostly from central Europe.

Membership of Euratom means access to these isotopes is currently assured despite strict international rules on the transportation of nuclear materials. But the UK will no longer be able to import or export these radiation therapies unless new agreements are reached with a range of countries and international organisations.

Any period of uncertainty could be damaging for the NHS as medical isotopes cannot be stockpiled.

CAPTION(S):

EXPERTS Medics examine an MRI scan

FEARS Dr Philippa Whitford

CHECK A gamma scan - which involves injecting a radioactive isotope into the body - of a healthy human skeleton. Picture: Getty

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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 13, 2017
Words:473
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