The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation said on 13 September that it has four teams working in parallel to rectify a problem with a valve that is affecting the production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99).  A fifth team was in daily contact with international partners to source medicine from overseas, a spokesperson noted. 

“In terms of progress, we are currently removing irradiated material from inside what is known as a dissolution cell,” a statement said. “The valve that is causing the problem is at the top of this cell. This needs to be done safely and methodically, and in close consultation with the nuclear regulator, Arpansa [Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency]. After removal of the material we can continue works on the repairs to the valve in question.”

Ansto said the previous day that it had temporarily ceased manufacture of Mo-99 in its manufacturing facility after a fault was detected with a valve. “There are no safety implications”, it said, adding that the supply of the medicine already made had been distributed to Australian hospitals and nuclear medicine clinics. “Given that production has temporarily ceased, impacts on the future availability of nuclear medicine are expected. A nuclear medicine working group (NMWG), which comprises key groups within the nuclear medicine community, has been formed and is making recommendations on how to distribute existing supplies most equitably.”

Ansto said it was “working with people who designed and constructed the nuclear medicine facility to fully understand the cause of the mechanical defect, and safely rectify the issue”. It added: “Manufacturing will resume after the fault is safely and properly rectified. We will keep the regulator and nuclear medicine community informed as we work to rectify this issue.

Ansto said that after working with its international partners, it will be able to supply a limited amount of Mo-99 for three weeks, and was in the process of negotiating more including for over the longer term. “We expect that the amounts from overseas will gradually increase over the next three weeks, starting with 10 per cent of normal supply from next week and working up to around a third of normal supply by early next month.” Ansto said it would continue to work with the NMWG to assign the supplies of nuclear medicine in a way that minimises impact on Australian patients.