Molybdenum-99 shortage may soon ease

2018 04 24 20 24 4264 Isotope 400

Global supplies of the key radiopharmaceutical molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) are expected to improve in the next few weeks, now that two nuclear reactors are back online.

The High Flux Reactor (HFR) in Petten, the Netherlands, returned to service on October 31 after an unexpected shutdown. Since then, the facility has been ramping up to normal production levels, which could be reached as soon as this week. HFR provides Mo-99 to nuclear medicine firm Curium, one of the world's four major suppliers.

In addition, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation's (ANSTO) Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) reactor returned to service on November 8. The OPAL reactor was offline for 11 days, starting on October 29, for planned maintenance. The facility is expected to return to full Mo-99 production this week.

The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) notified Mo-99 users two weeks ago to prepare for an Mo-99 shortage this month. One culprit is NTP Radioisotopes' Pelindaba nuclear facility in South Africa, which has had a series of operational issues going back to last year. The reactor is currently waiting for approval from the National Nuclear Regulator to perform production runs on its Mo-99 line. NTP has completed functionality tests, and Mo-99 from those runs will be available for commercial use and export, according to the SNMMI.

NTP also plans to resume iodine-131 production approximately two weeks after the start of Mo-99 production.

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