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NNSA collaborates with global healthcare company to complete conversion of Mo-99 production to LEU-based process

Majority of global Mo-99 supply now produced without HEU

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) today announced that Curium, a global healthcare company, has completed the conversion of its molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) production process from highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU).

This conversion to LEU represents a key milestone in the global effort to end the use of HEU in Mo-99 production. Mo-99 is the most widely used medical radioisotope for nuclear imaging and is used in approximately 40,000 patient procedures daily in the United States.

“Curium’s successful conversion marks another major step towards a more secure world where the Mo-99 supply is stable and proliferation-sensitive material is not at risk,” said David Huizenga, NNSA’s Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. “By increasing the share of worldwide Mo-99 production that uses LEU, we are closer to eliminating the use of weapons-grade uranium in making this critical resource and making the world safer.”

NNSA and Curium have collaborated on the conversion process since 2014 as part of NNSA’s nonproliferation mission, which helps support major global Mo-99 producers to convert production from HEU to LEU. NNSA’s support allowed the global healthcare company to develop new LEU-based targets, and design, build, and test new production equipment and processes for separating the LEU-based Mo-99 after irradiation.

With its conversion, Curium joins ranks with South Africa’s NTP Radioisotopes and Australia’s ANSTO Nuclear Medicine as one of the major global Mo-99 suppliers with 100 percent LEU-based production. The achievement ensures that over half of the world’s production of this important medical isotope is now taking place with LEU.

In addition to supporting the conversion of international Mo-99 producers, NNSA works domestically to support commercial partners in establishing a reliable, non-HEU-based supply of this critical medical radioisotope.

Additional information on NNSA efforts to establish a reliable supply of Mo‑99 without the use of HEU can be found here