US moves to expand Mo-99 production

15 May 2016

US NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes has announced plans to quadruple its capacity for production of the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) at the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR). A new filling line will be installed in November, with full production expected to begin in the first half of 2017. The $3m system will be designed and installed by Von Gahlen International, a subsidiary of Netherlands-based radiation shielding specialists Von Gahlen. The expansion is part of NorthStar's development of processes for producing Mo-99 without using high-enriched uranium (HEU).

There has been no commercial production of Mo-99 in the USA since 1989, but in 2014 the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced over $8m in funding to support two projects, including NorthStar's expansion, to ensure a domestic supply of the isotope without using HEU. NorthStar received approval to begin routine production of Mo-99 at the MURR facility in Columbia, Missouri, in August 2015. The new filling line will also be able to prepare source vessels containing Mo-99 generated from natural or enriched molybdenum-98 targets.

NNSA is also funding Shine Medical Technologies, which plans to produce medically important isotopes, including Mo-99, using an accelerator-driven subcritical assembly, rather than nuclear reactor, to irradiate a low-enriched uranium target solution. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission earlier this year authorized its staff to issue a construction licence for the company's first-of-a-kind production facility, to be built in Janesville, Wisconsin.

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