Report: Australia still importing technetium generators

2016 09 13 17 07 43 134 Atomic Technology 400

Australia is still importing technetium generators for nuclear medicine studies, nearly a month after the problem that caused a shutdown in shipments was said to have been fixed, according to an article published on September 7 in the Australian.

The delay in resuming domestic shipments of generators came after the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) discovered additional issues at its Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) reactor in Lucas Heights, outside of Sydney. Those issues have taken longer to fix than expected, and as a result ANSTO has continued to import generators from outside the country, an ANSTO spokesperson told the newspaper.

The OPAL reactor produces molybdenum-99, which is incorporated into generators that are shipped to healthcare facilities in Australia and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The molybdenum-99 decays into technetium-99m, which is then used at hospitals for nuclear medicine procedures.

ANSTO halted OPAL shipments in June due to problems with a conveyor belt at a facility next to the reactor, and it has been importing generators to fill the gap. The imports haven't been enough to meet demand, however, and many facilities -- particularly those in rural areas -- have been forced to cancel procedures, according to the article in the Australian.

The ANSTO spokesperson was quoted as saying that the organization is "ramping up production" of OPAL-produced generators. Over the next week, it expects to supply 59 generators, compared with 140 in a week of normal production.

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