NNSA Awards Agreement to Establish Non-HEU-Based Production of Molybdenum-99 in US

Press Release
Nov 15, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) today announced the award of a cooperative agreement to further accelerate the establishment of accelerator-based technology to produce the critical medical isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) in the U.S. The agreement with NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes, LLC, is important to ensuring a reliable domestic supply of Mo-99 for U.S. patients, produced without the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU).

As part of its nuclear nonproliferation mission, GTRI works to accelerate the establishment of a diverse, reliable supply of the critical medical isotope Mo-99, produced without the use of proliferation-sensitive HEU. Today’s announcement marks a significant step in these efforts. The U.S. currently does not have a domestic production capability for Mo-99 and must import 100 percent of its supply from foreign producers, most of which use HEU in their production processes. Technical difficulties and shutdowns at the major Mo-99 production facilities and expectations that aging reactors will cease production of this crucial medical isotope emphasize the need to establish a reliable supply of Mo-99. The Mo-99 produced by NorthStar would provide additional reliability for the U.S. supply.

“This cooperative agreement is evidence of the significant progress that is being made toward achieving commercial production of Mo-99 here in the United States without the use of highly enriched uranium,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington. “The continued development by our domestic commercial partners will help secure critical patient needs while also supporting HEU minimization and President Obama’s nuclear security agenda.”

Previously, NNSA awarded NorthStar two cooperative agreements, with a total of $2.8 million in federal support, to accelerate development activities while NNSA worked to satisfy its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). On the basis of the evaluations in the Final Environmental Assessment, NNSA has concluded its NEPA obligations and is now able to extend additional support to NorthStar to accelerate the remaining activities for project completion.

The award of this cooperative agreement, for which NNSA will contribute $22.2 million, is matched under a cost-share arrangement with NorthStar and will provide support for remaining activities for the establishment of NorthStar’s Mo-99 production capability using its accelerator-based technology.

GTRI has established partnerships with four domestic commercial entities to accelerate the establishment of a diverse, reliable supply of Mo-99 within the U.S. that is produced without HEU. GTRI also works with international producers to assist in the conversion of their Mo-99 production facilities from the use of HEU targets to low enriched uranium targets. These efforts are part of GTRI’s mission to minimize and, to the extent possible, eliminate the use of HEU in civilian applications worldwide, including in research reactors and medical isotope production facilities.

For more information on GTRI’s efforts to establish a reliable supply of Mo-99 without the use of HEU, click here.

Follow NNSA News on our Blog and on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, and Flickr.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.