SNC-Lavalin's Isotek Systems (Isotek) announced on 13 April that its sales agreement with nuclear company TerraPower had been expanded to further refine thorium (Th-229). The new agreement “will support TerraPower in its cancer treatment research by delivering an enhanced purified product and add to the over $90 million taxpayer dollars saved under this innovative public private partnership”, Isotek said.
Isotek, a wholly owned subsidiary of Atkins Nuclear Secured, is the US Department of Energy (DOE) contractor responsible for preparing the US inventory of uranium-233 (U-233) for transportation and disposal. In November 2019, DOE, TerraPower, and Isotek announced a public-private partnership called the New Life for Cancer Research. The partnership consists of Isotek extracting a rare isotope of Th-229 when processing U-233 and providing that Th-229 to TerraPower. TerraPower will use it to generate Actinium-225 (Ac-225) medical isotopes for next generation cancer research and treatment.
“It's important to extract Th-229 from U-233 because Th-229 only comes from U-233,” said Isotek Project Manager Sarah Schaefer. “Since most of the world's supply of U-233 is stored at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, once this material is dispositioned, there will be no more Th-229 available.” Under the new contract, Isotek will purify the extracted Th-229 before it is sent to TerraPower, which will speed up the availability of Ac-225 to medical researchers. This will start in 2021 when Isotek moves processing to hot cells for full-scale processing. By the end of the processing, Isotek expects to provide enough Th-229 to produce 100 times more cancer treatment doses from Ac-225 a year compared with the 4,000 doses currently available world-wide.
Isotek, in partnership with the Oak Ridge Office for Environmental Management, was recently awarded the Secretary of Energy Achievement Award for work related to the New Life for Cancer Research project.
Isotek Systems is a DOE contractor under Atkins Nuclear Secured. Since 2003, Isotek has been responsible for overseeing the inventory of U-233 and preparing its removal from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Employees have transferred and dispositioned approximately half of the inventory. The remaining inventory requires processing and downblending prior to disposal, which began in October 2019. Atkins Nuclear Secured is a subsidiary of WS Atkins. SNC-Lavalin acquired WS Atkins in 2017.