The US Department of Energy (DOE) Isotope Program and QSA Global have agreed to jointly initiate domestic production of iridium-192 (Ir-192), a critical isotope used in industrial gamma ray radiography. The US has depended on imports of this radioisotope for the last 20 years since DOE pulled out of the market. The agreement aims to re-establish a domestic Ir-192 to reduce US reliance on foreign sources.

Ir-192 has a half-life of 73.8 days. It is produced by the neutron irradiation of 99.9% iridium metal targets, usually inside a nuclear reactor. It serves as a gamma source essential for industrial radiographic non-destructive testing to detect structural damage to metal parts such as castings, forgings, and weld defects. Industrial gamma radiography is key to ensuring the quality of manufacturing processes, particularly in sectors such as shipbuilding, auto manufacturing, and aerospace. It is also used for on-site integrity assessments of oil and gas pipelines.

"We are extremely pleased to work with QSA Global to re-establish a US supply of this critical radioisotope to promote stability to an otherwise fragile supply chain,” said Dr Jehanne Gillo, Director of the DOE Isotope Program.

Under the agreement, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will collaborate with QSA Global to finalise a reactor target design and prepare associated packaging and transportation procedures for shipment of targets back to QSA. The goal of the QSA and the DOE Isotope Program is to begin routine irradiations with new product for high-priority domestic applications in 2024. ORNL currently produces, purifies, and delivers more than 300 stable and radioactive isotopes used in medicine, research, industry, and space exploration using its High Flux Isotope Reactor.

“We appreciate our long-term, reliable supply of isotopes from the DOE Isotope Program and look forward to adding Ir-192 to the list. This will strengthen the supply chain, benefit domestic manufacturing, and strengthen US energy independence for the future,” said Jake Bourn, Vice President, General Manager of QSA Global.