Technology targets nuclear medicine supply

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has been selected by the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to help develop a US supply of a radioisotope used in more than 20 million diagnostic medical procedures in the US each year.

NNSA chose GEH to help create a reliable US supply of molybdenum-99 without the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) to respond to a shortage from repeated, unplanned outages at facilities where it currently is produced.

With a half-life of only 66 hours, molybdenum-99 must be delivered to hospitals on a frequent and consistent basis.

Molybdenum-99 decays into technetium-99m, the radioisotope most widely used in common diagnostic procedures. Technetium-99m is used in about 80 per cent of all nuclear medicine procedures, including evaluation of the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, spleen, bones and blood flow.

Deploying GEH’s isotope production technology potentially could meet at least 50 per cent of the US’s projected supply needs for molybdenum-99/technetium-99m.

GEH also recently announced an agreement with Exelon Generation for a pilot project to meet growing demand for cobalt-60, a radioisotope used for treating cancer and other biomedical applications.