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Medical Isotope Production without Highly Enriched Uranium
tration [DOE-NNSA]), it was jointly agreed that the following task would also be included as part of this study:3
If the National Academies determine that the procurement of medical isotopes from commercial sources is not feasible as defined in Section 630 of the Energy Policy Act, it should estimate the magnitude of the cost differential and identify additional steps that could be taken by the Department of Energy and medical isotope producers to improve the feasibility of such conversions. In estimating the magnitude of cost differentials, consideration should be given to facilities utilized by both large and small producers. The National Academies should also identify any reliability of supply issues that could arise as a result of such conversions.
DOE-NNSA and the National Academies judged that this added task would assist DOE in achieving its mandate to minimize the use of HEU in civilian applications. The complete statement of task for this study is reproduced in Sidebar 1.2.
The mandate for this study reflects an effort by the U.S. Congress to balance two competing national interests: first, to ensure the continued availability of reasonably priced medical isotopes in the United States; and second, to prevent the proliferation of HEU, which could be diverted for malevolent use in nuclear explosive devices (Sidebar 1.1). A brief history of congressional actions on HEU use for medical isotope production is provided in Sidebar 1.3. Kuperman (2005, 2006) explores the motivations for and possible consequences of these actions.
At present, there are no producers of Mo-99 for medical use4 in the United States. Almost all of the Mo-99 used worldwide is produced by just four companies, all using HEU targets:
MDS-Nordion, which is located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, obtains Mo-99 under an agreement with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), which is located at Chalk River, Canada;
Mallinckrodt5 near Petten, the Netherlands, extracts Mo-99 from targets irradiated in three European reactors;
Institut National des Radioéléments (IRE) near Fleurus, Belgium, extracts Mo-99 from targets irradiated in three European reactors; and
This additional task was formally approved by DOE-NNSA and the National Academies prior to the start of the study.
In this report, the terms Mo-99 production, Mo-99 producer, and similar constructions refer specifically to Mo-99 produced for medical isotope use. All uranium-fueled nuclear reactors produce Mo-99 as a result of fission of U-235 contained in their reactor fuels, but this Mo-99 is not recovered for medical use.
Mallinckrodt Inc., a Delaware corporation, is an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Covidien Ltd.