BWXT and Ontario Power Generation report 'tremendous progress' toward Mo-99 production

September 29, 2020
by Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief
Ontario Power Generation (OPG), its subsidiary Laurentis Energy Partners, and BWXT ITG Canada Inc. have reported significant progress toward the production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) at OPG’s Darlington Nuclear Generating Station.

Ontario’s Chalk River nuclear reactor — which was the main supplier of technetium-99 (Tc-99m) for North America — stopped regular production of isotopes in 2016, and closed down entirely in 2018. Mo-99, the parent isotope of Tc-99m, is a vital SPECT imaging tracer used in over 40 million procedures annually.

Over the past 24 months, a team of more than 100 people at BWXT and Laurentis designed specialized tooling at BWXT’s facility in Peterborough to enable the production of Mo-99 at Darlington. The manufacturing of this specialized tooling is currently underway at the same BWXT facility in Peterborough.

“We are leveraging BWXT’s broad capabilities to design, manufacture, install and service reactor technology in order to support the launch of this innovative solution in partnership with Laurentis,” said John MacQuarrie, president of BWXT Canada Ltd., in a statement. “Together, we have made tremendous progress toward the production of this crucial medical isotope that is used in more than 80% of all nuclear medicine procedures.”

BWXT has also built a fabrication facility at its current location in Peterborough to produce Mo-99 components that will be delivered by the specialized tooling, which will be installed at Darlington. The tooling will deliver the molybdenum into the Darlington reactor for irradiation, which will enable Darlington to become the first commercial operating nuclear reactor to produce Mo-99.

“We are well underway with the transformation of our nuclear medicine facility in Ottawa to be able to process Mo-99 and manufacture Tc-99m generators,” said Martyn Coombs, president of BWXT ITG. “These generators will be used to make radiopharmaceuticals for patients, and will help to resolve historical shortages of this vital product.”