The committee finds that:
The anticipated average cost increase to convert to the production of medical isotopes without the use of HEU would likely be less than 10 percent for at least three of the four current large-scale producers (MDS Nordion, Mallinckrodt, and Institut National des Radioéléments). This is true for costs and/or prices at all three points in the Mo-99/Tc-99m supply chain that were examined by the committee. In fact, a 10 percent cost increase for Mo-99 would provide very substantial resources for conversion and would have a negligible impact on the cost of common diagnostic imaging procedures. The committee has insufficient information regarding potential conversion costs for the South African producer Nuclear Technology Products Radioisotopes.
This result is based on assumed future facility operations of 30–50 years. For the High Flux Reactor (HFR) at Petten, it is assumed that development of LEU targets and processes would carry over to the to-be-built Pallas reactor, so that a long amortization period is justified. The committee is unable to assess whether the use of a 30-year operating period is consistent with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s (AECL) long-term plans for Mo-99 production. AECL has not indicated what plans it has for producing Mo-99 beyond 2016 and was not willing to discuss with the committee what refurbishment is needed to keep National Research Universal (NRU) running until 2016. If AECL decides to get out of the business of producing Mo-99, then obviously a shorter amortization period would need to be used.
The committee recommends that Mo-99 producers and the U.S. government consider several steps to improve the feasibility of conversion; additional details are provided in Chapter 10:
Mo-99 producers: Commit to conversion, announce a best-effort schedule for selecting and implementing an LEU-based Mo-99 production process, and identify additional needs for technical assistance. Work with industry organizations and scientific and medical societies concerned with Mo-99 production for marshalling, coordinating, and supporting an industry-wide conversion strategy.
DOE: Make the considerable technical expertise of the DOE national laboratory system available to assist existing producers with conversion-related research and development (R&D) and examine options