To help address a shortage of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), a medical isotope used in millions of medical procedures each year, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Exelon have joined to study the feasibility of producing Mo-99 at Clinton Power Station, a nuclear power plant in Clinton, Ill.
Mo-99 decays into technetium-99m, an isotope used in about 85 percent of all nuclear medicine procedures, including evaluation of the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, spleen, bones and blood flow. To address the shortage of this critical isotope, GEH and the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Global Threat Reduction Initiative are developing a domestic source of Mo-99 that does not rely on using highly enriched uranium (HEU)—advancing a key non-proliferation initiative for the United States.
Exelon’s Clinton Power Station currently produces the isotope cobalt-60 for use in other medical treatments. In the next year, GEH and Exelon will work on a design to allow insertion and removal of activated molybdenum on a weekly basis. Because Mo-99 has a very short half-life of only 66 hours, the companies will develop a system to allow delivery of the isotope on a weekly basis.
“We’re proud to be involved with the production of a domestic source of this critical and widely used radioisotope that will help tens of thousands of people daily across the U.S.,” said Exelon Nuclear Senior Vice President of Midwest Operations Bryan Hanson.
“We are excited about the possibility of working with Exelon and the U.S. government to help fill a void that has a direct impact on our population’s health,” said Kevin Walsh, senior vice president, nuclear fuel cycle for GEH. “GEH’s new isotope production technology could potentially meet approximately 50 percent of the United States’ projected supply needs of this critical isotope, ensuring consistent patient access to vital medical diagnostic procedures.”
GEH is pioneering a method of producing Mo-99 that avoids the use of HEU and uses existing nuclear reactors to produce Mo-99. After leaving the reactor, the Mo-99 is safely transported in specialized licensed shipping containers to one or more processing facilities, where it is placed in a form that can be sent to nuclear pharmacies around the country.
MOUs with NuView Life Sciences and NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes
GEH also has signed memoranda of understanding with NuView Life Sciences’ facility in Denton, Texas and NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes’ facility in the city of Beloit, Wisc., as potential processers of the Mo-99.
“Working with GEH and Exelon on the possible development of this new approach for a domestic supply chain of Tc-99 is encouraging news for the nuclear medicine sector,” said Paul Crowe, NuView Life Sciences’ chairman and CEO. “Our manufacturing facilities, staff and workforce in the Denton, Dallas and Fort Worth communities can be counted upon for the technical expertise that will be required moving forward. We believe we can provide an important role in helping to stabilize the nation’s supply of such a vital medical isotope, complementing the GEH and Exelon efforts.”
“NorthStar looks forward to the prospect of working with GEH and Exelon in supporting their efforts in providing a solution to a significant issue facing the nuclear medicine community,” said George Messina, NorthStar’s chairman and CEO. “The introduction of NorthStar’s generator technology into this process, and the complementing of GEH and Exelon’s production efforts with NorthStar’s parallel production efforts, should dramatically aid the success of both of our programs. This represents a great opportunity for the local workforce in Wisconsin’s Beloit and Rock County.”
In September 2009, NNSA provided $2.25 million in a cost-sharing cooperative agreement to accelerate the GEH project to produce Mo-99 in the United States without the use of HEU. GEH’s partnership with Exelon, NuView, and NorthStar marks an important milestone in the GEH project and furthers NNSA’s objective of achieving reliable supplies of Mo-99 produced without the use of HEU for the United States.
GE has more than a half-century of experience in providing isotopes for medical and industrial applications. The GE Test Reactor (GETR), which began operating in 1959, was the first commercially licensed test reactor in the world. GE developed many of the standards and specifications used in isotope production today. As a result of work performed at GETR, GE produced 30 isotopes, including Mo-99, for medical and industrial uses.
About GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy
Based in Wilmington, N.C., GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is a world-leading provider of advanced reactors and nuclear services. Established in June 2007, GEH is a global nuclear alliance created by GE and Hitachi to serve the global nuclear industry. The nuclear alliance executes a single, strategic vision to create a broader portfolio of solutions, expanding its capabilities for new reactor and service opportunities. The alliance offers customers around the world the technological leadership required to effectively enhance reactor performance, power output and safety.
Howard Masto, Masto Public Relations
P: +1 518 786 6488 / E: howard.masto[.]ge.com.
Tom Murnane, Masto Public Relations
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