The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has authorized its staff to issue a construction permit for Shine Medical Technologies' first-of-a-kind medical radioisotope production facility to be built in Janesville, Wisconsin.
The facility will produce medically important isotopes, including molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), using an accelerator-driven subcritical assembly - not a nuclear reactor - to irradiate a low-enriched uranium target solution. Shine submitted its application to the NRC in 2013. In October 2015, following an independent review of Shine's preliminary safety analysis report, the NRC's advisory committee on reactor safeguards recommended that a construction permit should be issued.
The construction permit will be the first issued by the NRC for a non-power utilization or production facility since 1985, and Shine says it is the only US medical isotope producer to have reached this stage of the permitting process since the 1960s.
Mo-99 is used in medicine to produce technetium-99m, used in around 80% of nuclear imaging procedures. With a half-life of only 66 hours, Mo-99 cannot be stockpiled, and security of supply is a key concern. Most of the world's supply is produced in research reactors in Australia, Canada, Europe, Russia and South Africa. There has been no commercial production of the isotope in the USA since 1989.
Since 2009 the US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has been working in partnership with US commercial entities to accelerate the development of technologies to produce the radioisotope domestically without using highly-enriched uranium (HEU). Shine's project has received support under the NNSA's program, under which it was awarded a $3.2 million grant in November 2014.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News