14 Sep Report Warns: Shutdown of a reactor at Chalk River (Canada) will likely result in worldwide shortage of Mo-99
New Report from The National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine (USA) Warns of Potential Supply Shortage of the Medical Isotopes Molybdenum-99 and Technetium-99m in U.S.
WASHINGTON – Although the current supply of molybdenum-99 and technetium-99m – isotopes used worldwide in medical diagnostic imaging – is sufficient to meet domestic and global demand, changes to the supply chain before year-end could lead to severe shortages and impact the delivery of medical care, says a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
The congressionally mandated report examines the production and utilization of molybdenum-99, technetium-99m, and associated medical isotopes iodine-131 and xenon-133, and also assesses the progress made in eliminating highly enriched uranium (HEU) from molybdenum-99 production.
Technetium-99m – derived from molybdenum-99 – is the most commonly used isotope for radionuclide medical imaging, which noninvasively evaluates regional physiologic and metabolic processes, such as cardiac blood flow, with the ultimate goal of localizing diseased tissues and organs.
Nearly 95 percent of the world’s supply of molybdenum-99 is produced by irradiating targets – typically a solid plate containing uranium clad in aluminum – in seven research reactors located in Australia, Canada, Europe, and South Africa. This isotope has not been produced in the U.S. since the late 1980s. Molybdenum-99 and technetium-99m are distributed through an international supply chain on a weekly or more frequent basis. Such speedy delivery is essential because molybdenum-99 and technetium-99m have short half-lives and therefore cannot be stockpiled.
The report finds that while current global supplies of molybdenum-99 are adequate to meet U.S. needs, the capacity to supply molybdenum-99 will be reduced substantially when the reactor in Canada stops production at the end of October 2016. Canada will then become a supplier of last resort – producing molybdenum-99 only in case of severe global shortages – until its reactor shuts down permanently at the end of March 2018.