NorthStar, Westinghouse partner to produce medical radioisotopes

NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes and Westinghouse Electric have completed a memorandum of understanding under which the companies will explore the potential for producing medical radioisotopes in commercial nuclear reactors.

The collaboration includes the generation of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) via the irradiation of molybdenum-98 (Mo-98) in the commercial nuclear reactor core.

The companies hope to address the need worldwide for additional capacity for the production of medical radioisotopes, as well as the nuclear proliferation concern associated with current Mo-99 production methods that use highly enriched uranium (HEU) as source material, according to a release. Mo-99 is the parent isotope of technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the most widely used radioisotope in medical diagnostic imaging. Currently, nearly all Mo-99 is generated using weapons-usable HEU at aging facilities, leading to chronic product shortages and creating safety and national security concerns.

Westinghouse has a patent pending for the production of medical radioisotopes using the movable incore detector system that is part of the existing Westinghouse plant design. NorthStar has been developing two processes for using stable isotopes of molybdenum--Mo-98 and Mo-100--rather than HEU as the starting point for Mo-99 production. Combining their expertise will help the companies maintain a steady supply of this diagnostic isotope.