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NNSA Works to Establish a Reliable Supply of Mo-99 Produced Without Highly Enriched Uranium

October 29, 2014

As part of its nuclear nonproliferation mission, and in support of the American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2012 (AMIPA), the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) is working to develop a reliable and sustainable means of producing the life-saving medical isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) without using highly enriched uranium (HEU).  

This program is part of DOE/NNSA’s effort to develop and implement technologies to minimize and, to the extent possible, eliminate the civilian use of HEU, including in research reactors and isotope production facilities worldwide.

DOE/NNSA’s objective is to accelerate the establishment of a reliable, commercial Mo-99 supply network that avoids a single point of failure and does not use proliferation-sensitive HEU, an effort that requires strong cooperation among government, industry, and the medical community.  As the United States currently imports the majority of its Mo-99 supply from subsidized, aging facilities abroad, most of which is produced with HEU, DOE/NNSA’s effort is aimed to ensure that this important medical isotope is readily available to meet patient needs, and produced in accordance with U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy.  To further this critical effort:

  • DOE/NNSA provides assistance to existing global Mo-99 producers to convert from the use of HEU targets to low enriched uranium (LEU) targets.
  • Since 2009, DOE/NNSA has partnered with U.S. commercial entities to accelerate the development of a diverse set of non-HEU technologies to produce Mo-99 in the United States. DOE/NNSA's current commercial partners include:
    • NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes is developing both neutron capture and accelerator-based technologies, which will utilize NorthStar’s RadioGenixTM Tc-99m Generating System.
    • SHINE Medical Technologies is developing accelerator technology with LEU fission.
    • DOE/NNSA’s cooperative agreements are implemented under a 50%-50% cost-share arrangement, consistent with AMIPA and Section 988 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.   DOE/NNSA’s support to the total project cost of the cooperative agreement partners is up to $25 million each, consistent with policy guidelines from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development – Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD-NEA).
    • DOE/NNSA makes technical expertise available, on a non-proprietary basis, to existing and potential Mo-99 producers to assist with converting their Mo-99 production processes to use LEU targets, and to develop non-HEU-based Mo-99 production technologies.

Other organizations in the United States are also working to develop the ability to produce non-HEU-based Mo-99.  While independent of DOE/NNSA’s Mo-99 Program, these projects are complementary to domestic and international efforts to ensure a reliable supply of Mo-99 produced without HEU. These groups include, but are not limited to:

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