It is becoming more difficult to ship radioisotopes, and if the problem increases, researchers and other users in some parts of the world may not be able to obtain them at all, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Some companies that sell radioisotopes say the problem is delaying their shipments and adding to their costs.

British Airways and KML Royal Dutch Airlines ban radioactive materials; Northwest Airlines bans shipments on all its passenger planes, allowing them only on international cargo freighters, according to a spokesperson. Several Asian airlines also refuse nuclear shipments, say two members of the international IAEA committee, David McInnes, of the Canadian radioisotope manufacturer MDS Nordion, and Ian Gibbs, an official of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization.

"There is a risk that if more airlines do deny, particularly where few airlines serve key regions, then this does raise a serious issue," says Michael...

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