The industry needs an innovation.
February 25, 2016
With the National Reactor Universal (NRU) in Chalk River, Ontario, ceasing routine production of medical isotopes in October 2016, Canada and the world’s supply of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) is in danger. Nearly 40% of the world’s Mo-99 supply has been produced at Chalk River, and considering that medical isotopes are used in over 18 million diagnostic procedures annually in North America, the health of our community is at risk.
Currently, the majority of Mo-99 is being produced in a few nuclear reactors around the world. These nuclear reactors are fueled with highly enriched uranium, which raises significant safety concerns as HEU is used to make nuclear weapons as well. Several reactors are upgrading to use low-enriched (LEU) uranium instead. Though LEU cannot be used to produce nuclear weapons, it poses its own risks, including increased costs, more nuclear waste as a by-product and challenges with adapting reactors to use LEU.
With a critical shortage of medical isotopes looming, the industry needs an innovation.
In light of this issue, cutting edge companies are exploring new ways to make isotopes without nuclear reactors or any form of uranium. Recent innovations have led the industry towards particle accelerators. A particle accelerator is a machine that uses electromagnetic fields to propel charged particles to nearly the speed of light in a well-defined beam. These machines do not use highly enriched uranium, which makes them a much safer alternative to nuclear reactors.
On December 16th, 2015, the National Academy of Science gathered together top experts to discuss the future of isotope production. The gathering was formed to explore a recent undertaking – a congressionally mandated study titled ‘State of Molybdenum-99 Production and Utilization and Progress toward Eliminating Use of Highly Enriched Uranium’. The study is sponsored by the U.S Department of Energy-National Nuclear Security Administration, and will address the isotope crisis. Additional information about this study can be found at nationalacademies.org. At this influential gathering, Canadian Isotope Innovations was among four companies asked to present possible solutions.
CII’s team took the stage and presented the world’s first commercial-scale solution to produce Mo-99 using a linear accelerator, one that will allow CII to reliably supply a substantial portion to North America by 2020. Unlike reactor-based isotopes, CII’s production process creates no dangerous nuclear by-products, and much of the parent atoms and materials can be recycled to be used again, eliminating waste. CII pairs an innovative production method with a simplified supply chain that allows it to ship pure Mo-99 to radio-pharmacies and hospitals. This halves the conventional reactor supply chain distribution time and greatly reduces the distribution costs.
The invitation to speak at this event was a strong step towards raising awareness of the viability of the linear accelerator method and establishing it as the dominant solution.
CII has created the world’s first commercially viable linear accelerator Mo-99 production method. To learn more about CII’s innovations visit our product page.
See the NAS fact-finding agenda in Canada: https://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/meetingview.aspx?MeetingID=8401&MeetingNo=27