In response to growing concerns about medical isotope availability, Congress created2 the Isotope Production and Distribution Program and gave it the responsibility for ensuring a stable supply of isotopes, including medical radioisotopes, in the United States. In 1991, the Department of Energy (DOE) was funded by these three domestic technetium generator manufacturers to study the feasibility of using its facilities to develop a domestic supply of Mo-99 and associated fission products. As a result of this feasibility study, DOE purchased the rights to Cintichem’s Mo-99 production technology3 and associated equipment in 1991. Initially, DOE planned to produce Mo-99 using the Cintichem technology at the Omega West Reactor (OWR) and the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) hot cell facilities at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. However, in December 1992–January 1993, a leak in the primary cooling system piping of that reactor was determined to be contributing to tritium contamination of the groundwater beneath the reactor facility. After detailed analysis, DOE decided in mid 1993 to shut down the reactor.

From mid 1993 until early 1995, DOE evaluated other alternative facilities for Mo-99 production. An Environmental Impact Statement (DOE, 1996a) prepared during 1995 evaluated these alternatives, and in 1996 DOE issued a Record of Decision (DOE, 1996b) that selected the CMR facility at Los Alamos for target fabrication and the 2 MWt Annular Core Research Reactor (ACRR) and associated hot cell facilities at Technical Area V at Sandia National Laboratories as the preferred alternatives for Mo-99 production. From late 1996 until mid 1999, DOE made capital investments and supported operating costs of the Sandia nuclear facilities to develop a Mo-99 production capability. DOE costs ranged from $20 million to $50 million, depending on whether facility operating costs were included as part of the Mo-99 project costs.

DOE issued an Expression of Interest (EOI) in 1999 to gauge commercial interest in further development of this Sandia production initiative. There was initial industrial interest in learning about the Sandia production capability. However, knowledgeable Mo-99 producers concluded that Sandia production of Mo-99 was not economically competitive with then-existing commercial Mo-99 production. The yield of Mo-99 (in terms of curies per gram of uranium-235 [U-235]) using the Cintichem technology in the

2

Public Law 101-101. The program was managed by the Office of Nuclear Energy within the Department of Energy (DOE).

3

Cintichem used an acidic dissolution process (now referred to as the Cintichem process) to produce Mo-99 from irradiated highly enriched uranium (HEU) targets. An improved version of this process is currently being developed for use on low enriched uranium (LEU) targets by Argonne National Laboratory. It is referred to as an LEU-modified Cintichem process or sometimes just modified Cintichem process.



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