US-based NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes is pressing ahead with developing non-uranium-based production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) using its recently completed Accelerator Production facility in Wisconsin. NorthStar says the “two beams on target” accelerator is expected to almost double its commercial-scale Mo-99 capability and augments its domestic Mo-99 production, which is a collaborative venture with the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR). Mo-99 is the parent radioisotope of technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the most widely used radioisotope for diagnostic imaging.
In 2018, NorthStar became the first US company in nearly 30 years to produce Mo-99 domestically, using a non-uranium-based process by irradiating and processing molybdenum-98 targets at MURR using neutron capture technology. NorthStar Senior Vice President & Chief Science Officer James Harvey says the Accelerator Production facility in Beloit will be the first facility in the world to produce commercial-scale Mo-99 using this new technology. “It is based on irradiation of molybdenum-100 targets with two electron beams rather than the currently used single beam approach used for the production of many other isotopes,” he explains. “Dual electron beam accelerator production is one of the most efficient methods of making Mo-99, and can also be used to produce therapeutic radioisotopes such as copper-67 (Cu-67) and non-carrier-added actinium-225 (nca Ac-225). It enables increased Mo-99 production capability, greater scheduling flexibility and results in a benign and easily managed waste stream.”
NorthStar has benefitted from both financial and technical support from the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) as part of a programme to increase US production of Mo-99 without the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU). NorthStar also says its technology produces far less radioactive waste than traditional Mo-99 production processes, which use HEU.
Frank Scholz, NorthStar’s President & Chief Operating Officer, says once the Accelerator Production facility is licensed and operational, NorthStar will have sufficient total production capability to meet nearly 40% of US demand for Mo-99. “This is particularly important given that the historically fragile overseas Mo-99 supply chain remains fraught with shortages, as recently as this past November, underscoring the continued need for domestic, reliable, non-uranium-based Mo-99 supply for the United States,” he notes.
“We are proud that our company can lead the way in supplying our RadioGenix System (technetium Tc 99m generator) customers with domestic Mo-99 despite these supply shortages, and we are excited by the prospect of bringing our Isotope Processing and Accelerator Production facilities online, upon completion of regulatory submissions, in mid-2023.”
Image courtesy of Northstar Medical Radioisotopes