Contract awarded for molybdenum facility

21 January 2014

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (Ansto) has awarded a contract worth AUD83 million ($73 million) to design and construct a new facility to manufacture the vital medical radioisotope molybdenum-99.

Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) is used in hospitals as the source of technetium-99 in an estimated 45 million diagnostic procedures per year around the world. Produced in research reactors, the radioisotope has a half-life of only 66 hours and cannot be stockpiled. Most of the world's Mo-99 comes from just five reactors in Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, South Africa and Russia which have been in operation since the 1950s and 1960s, and recent years have seen global shortages of the isotope when several of them have been out of action at the same time.

Ansto's OPAL reactor, which came into operation in 2006, currently supplies enough Mo-99 for some 550,000 doses per year - sufficient to meet Australian domestic requirements. The new Nuclear Medicine Molybdenum-99 (ANM Mo-99) processing facility will enable Ansto to significantly increase the output from OPAL, enabling it to make some 20 million doses per year, launching Australia as a major international supplier of the isotope.

Ansto announced its plans for the new Lucas Heights facility in September 2012. Regulatory approval was granted by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) in October 2013. It has now awarded the design and construction contract to Australian company Watpac Limited.

Watpac state manager for New South Wales Ric Wang said that design work on the facility is due to begin in February 2014, with construction scheduled for completion in 2016. "The building will be classed as a nuclear installation and therefore will be designed to meet the requirements of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency and Australian Non-proliferation and Safeguards Office," he noted.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News