General Atomics Receives DOE/NNSA Funding to Advance U.S. Produced Supply of Medical Isotopes
Cooperative agreement supports work by General Atomics and its partners, the University of Missouri Research Reactor and Nordion
SAN DIEGO (Sept. 30) – A new cooperative agreement between the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Adminstration (NNSA) and General Atomics (GA) was announced today under which NNSA will contribute $9.7M to advance critical work to develop a reliable U.S. based supply of the medical isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) without use of highly enriched uranium. GA is supported in this project by the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR), with its experience of isotope supply and reliable operating history, and Nordion, with North America's only active Mo-99 purification capability.
The isotope molybdenum-99 is the parent isotope of technetium-99m, the most widely used radioisotope in medical diagnostic imaging, being used in approximately 80% of nuclear diagnostic imaging procedures. Past technical difficulties and shutdowns at the major Mo-99 production facilities have caused widespread shortages to the medical community, and the world's largest producer—located in Canada—is expected to cease regular Mo-99 production after 2016. These events emphasize the ongoing need to establish new commercial Mo-99 production capacity. GA's Mo-99 production technique could be used to supply at least half of the U.S. demand for Mo-99, which is about 50,000 medical procedures every day.
GA brings 60 years of experience in nuclear technology to the collaboration that combines the nuclear and radioisotope supply capabilities of MURR and Nordion with GA's innovative selective gas extraction (SGE) technology to provide Mo-99 suitable for use in all existing Tc-99m generators. GA's SGE technology utilizes low enriched uranium (LEU) targets designed to allow selective reaction of Mo-99 with a suitable extraction gas during the irradiation process. Mo-99 is transferred outside the reactor for collection at MURR and purification at Nordion's existing isotope production facility in Ottawa. This technology minimizes the generation of radioactive waste and the required amount of LEU while maximizing isotope production.
"We are keenly aware of the societal benefit to be realized from successful completion of our project to develop a domestic supply of Mo-99, and we are excited to be combining GA's innovative technology with the world class capabilities of MURR and Nordion to achieve this goal," said Kathy Murray, GA's Mo-99 Project Manager. "We are also highly pleased that NNSA has elected to provide funding to help us achieve this important goal."
Lisa Petrillo, Strategic Communications GA Energy and Advanced Concepts
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Doug Fouquet, General Atomics Communications