In early November, medical isotope producers met with nuclear explosion monitoring experts at a workshop to improve the effectiveness of the International Monitoring System (IMS). The IMS uses radioactive isotope emissions to detect if a nuclear weapons test has taken place. Unfortunately, not everything that emits radioactive isotopes is a nuclear test. The production of medical isotopes like molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), for example, can result in emissions of xenon isotopes that the IMS interprets as potential nuclear tests. Minimizing these false positives is essential to the effectiveness of the IMS.
The fourth Workshop on Signatures of Medical and Industrial Isotope Production was a great success. Scientists from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) co-organized the workshop with the Preporatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), and helped produce “Zeroing in on Xenon,” a video that explains the effects of xenon isotope emissions. NNSA’s Office of Nonproliferation and International Security and the CTBTO are working with Mo-99 producers worldwide to reduce emissions.
This year, four additional producers signed a pledge to collaborate and address the problem, including Coquí RadioPharmaceuticals, this first U.S.-based potential Mo-99 producer to sign the pledge. Other U.S. firms that attended were SHINE Medical Technologies and NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes, which are working with NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) to establish a domestic supply of Mo-99 without using highly enriched uranium (HEU).
PNNL experts, supported by NNSA and the Departments of State and Defense, will continue to work with the CTBTO and medical isotope producers to minimize radioxenon emissions in order to enhance the effectiveness of the IMS.
About the photo: The five current or potential Mo-99 producers that have signed a pledge to collaborate with the CTBTO. Photo courtesy CTBTO.
From left: In-Cheol Lim, Vice President of the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI); Carmen Irene Bigles, CEO of Coquí RadioPharmaceuticals; Lassina Zerbo, CTBTO Executive Secretary; Yudiutomo Imardjoko Bernadib, President Director of PT Batan Teknologi; Emmy Hoffmann, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s (ANSTO) Manager of Nuclear Assurance Services; Benoit Deconninck from the Institute for Radioelements (IRE)