New nuclear medicine facilities announced for Australia

30 September 2021

A new nuclear medicine manufacturing facility will be built in Australia at Lucas Heights, the home of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). A ministerial announcement today launched the project, saying AUD30 million (USD12.8 million) would be spent on the facility's design.

The OPAL research reactor produces a range of isotopes for medicine and industry (Image: ANSTO)

"Nuclear medicine is an essential part of an advanced healthcare system and helps save lives - that's why we’re acting to secure a reliable nuclear medicine supply for future generations," said Angus Taylor, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction as well as Acting Minister for Industry, Science and Technology.

ANSTO operates the 30 MWt OPAL research reactor as well as other facilities at Lucas Heights, which is on the southern edge of Sydney. Taylor's announcement said that between 10,000 and 12,000 doses of nuclear medicine are made by ANSTO every week, but the current factory is "nearing the end of its life."

"The new facility will meet domestic demand for technetium, lutetium and iodine-based products, and have the flexibility to respond to market and technological changes," said ANSTO. It will be designed for "greater process automation than is possible with existing technology, leading to improvements in efficiency, quality, and, importantly, the highest levels of production safety," it said.

The AUD30 million design phase is the first part of a "multi-phased approach to replacing current facilities" in an overall project expected to last 8.5 years, ANSTO said.

Taylor added, "By funding the productive infrastructure that supports the delivery of nuclear medicine services, we are also investing in future industry development and in onshore, highly-skilled jobs such as nuclear medicine researchers, developers and practitioners."

A manufacturing facility for the medical isotope molybdenum-99 was completed in 2019 at Lucas Heights and operates alongside a facility which encapsulates liquid wastes in Synroc.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News