Publication Laka-library:
Alternatives for the production of medical isotopes

AuthorGreenpeace Netherlands, Profundo, J.W.van Gelder, A.Herder
DateMarch 2010

From the publication:

Alternatives for the production of medical isotopes
A research paper prepared for Greenpeace Netherlands
Profundo, 30 March 2010
Jan Willem van Gelder
Anniek Herder

The time and investments needed to built the proposed high flux reactor PALLAS, 
can also be used to develop alternatives for the production and use of medical 
isotopes. As a nuclear reactor has significant disadvantages because of safety 
and environmental issues, this report commissioned by Greenpeace, takes a 
closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of alternatives for nuclear 
reactors and the period needed for each alternative to become commercially 
Although the (limited) research has not found detailed information about 
construction time and costs, it does show that there are interesting 
alternatives available. Table 1 provides an overview of the alternative 
production technologies for producing the most widely used medical isotope 
Technetium-99 (Tc-99m). This isotope is used for imaging technologies and 
derived from parent isotope Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), that is produced in a 
nuclear research reactor.
According to a Dutch study amongst nuclear medicine professionals its use is 
not expected to decrease the coming fifteen years. But in absolute terms, the 
demand for Mo-99 is not likely to increase. Moreover, the European imaging 
association AIPES does believe that a shift towards the use of non-reactor 
produced radionuclides for imaging and therapy purposes and pain relief, is 
possible because of the availability and increasing use of alternative imaging 
technologies. Since the radio-isotope supply crises of 2008 these technologies 
are increasingly being considered as substitutes instead of complementary to 
common nuclear medicine procedures. Besides that we also found a report on the 
increased use of Thallium, the predecessor of Tc-99, that can be made using 
accelerators. For therapeutic applications many different medical isotopes are 
required, that can be made with accelerators or replaced by other isotopes, 
produced with accelerators.
Based on the conclusions, we recommend:
 to undertake a more thorough research that compares the alternative production 
technologies for Mo-99 on a set of indicators like costs, construction time 
needed, the impact on waste, the use of highly enriched uranium for fuel and 
targets, additional facilities needed, etc.;
 to undertake additional research to assess the future demand and production 
technologies for other radioisotopes (besides Mo-99);
 to asses if separate solutions or a combined solution for producing Mo-99 
and producing other radioisotopes are most desirable