Molybdenum-99 to be produced at Darlington NPP

8 July 2022

Following extensive collaboration involving design, regulatory licencing, manufacturing, planning and installation, the Molybdenum-99 Target Delivery System at unit 2 of Canada’s Darlington NPP, has officially reached the system energization milestone, enabling preliminary testing of the partially installed system. The project is led by Laurentis Energy Partners and BWXT Medical Ltd. 

Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) is used in over 40 million procedures each year to detect illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Mo-99 decays to Technetium-99 metastable (Tc-99m), one of the most widely used diagnostic imaging agents in nuclear medicine.

The Tc-99m Generator programme kicked off in 2018 with the design of a specialised system at BWXT’s facility in Peterborough that would enable the production of Mo-99 at Ontario Power Generation (OPG)’s Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. In 2021 regulatory approval of the necessary licence from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission was obtained, authorising future production. The balance of the system is scheduled for installation, and full system commissioning in late 2022.

In preparation for Q4 2022, when the remaining components of the Mo-99 system will be installed, the team has started preliminary testing to confirm the functionality of the equipment already in place.

“This milestone marks a considerable step forward towards the production of this life-saving isotope. I’m proud of the joint team’s efforts in providing a healthier and safer quality of life for millions of people around the world,” said Jennifer Quirt, Director of Commercial Projects at Laurentis.

On behalf of BWXT Medical, Laurentis is overseeing this project at Darlington. When the production system is operational and regulatory approval is obtained, BWXT’s Peterborough operations will manufacture and deliver the molybdenum targets to Darlington for irradiation. Once the targets are irradiated, BWXT Medical will then process the Mo-99 and integrate it into Tc-99m generators.

Since the shutdown of Canada’s National Research Universal reactor in March 2018, North America has not had a stable domestic supply of Mo-99, and has had to rely on imports from Europe, Africa, and Australia. Once operational, the arrangement between Laurentis and BWXT will be capable of producing enough Mo-99 to supply a significant portion of the current and future North American demand.

Because of the unique design of Ontario’s Candu reactors, isotopes can be removed and inserted while the reactor is online, without interrupting the station’s generation of energy. Darlington Nuclear will be the only commercial power reactor source of Molybdenum-99 in the world.

Image: The Molybdenum-99 Target Delivery System at unit 2 of Darlington NPP (photo courtesy of Laurentis Energy Partners)

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