U.S. must step up to prevent next Mo-99 crisis

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U.S. must step up to prevent next Mo-99 crisis

December 13, 2019
Molecular Imaging

How the United States can solve the supply issue. While the United States uses half of the world’s moly-99 supply, it historically has produced none of it. Even today, only limited quantities of moly-99 are produced here.

A handful of U.S. companies are progressing toward commercialization with new production methods. These innovative methods include the use of fusion to produce the required neutrons that, in turn, are used to make moly-99 through a fission reaction with a low-enriched uranium target. Many view the use of highly-enriched, weapons-grade uranium for moly-99 production as a significant risk. The federal government, through the National Nuclear Security Administration, is actively supporting the development of systems that use low-enriched uranium.

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These systems are cleaner, safer, and generate a fraction of the waste of reactor-based moly-99 production. Most important, one of these systems alone would be capable of producing one-third of the global patient need, significantly easing the supply issues associated with reactor-sourced moly-99. An increased supply – particularly one within the United States – also could likely drive down costs in logistics and shipping, while helping to ensure a critical medical component is never too far out of reach.

About the authors: Piefer is CEO of SHINE Medical Technologies, a development-stage company working to become a manufacturer of radioisotopes for nuclear medicine. Sengbusch is president of Phoenix, a designer and manufacturer of the world’s strongest neutron generators. SHINE is building a medical isotope production facility in Janesville, Wis., that will use fusion to create neutrons using Phoenix’s generators.

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