Canadian university could replace Chalk River for producing isotopes

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McMaster University in Ontario said it can produce four times the Canadian demand for technetium-99m (Tc-99m)  than the failing Chalk River reactor, provided it receives CAD $30 million ($26.5 million, U.S.) in government funding over the next five years.

Christopher Heysel, McMaster's director of nuclear operations and facilities, told a House of Commons committee on Tuesday that four times the Canadian market is about 20 percent of the total North American demand. The university has already received $22 million ($19.4 million) from both the federal and Ontario governments.

Other than Chalk River, McMaster's 50-year-old reactor is the only other Canadian facility that can produce Tc-99m.

Meanwhile, the federal government has announced $6 million ($5.3 million) to fund research into alternatives to Tc-99m, which is produced from molybdenum-99 (Moly-99).

With the reactor shutdown expected to last three months or longer, medical imaging experts have been struggling to meet the needs of patients requiring important diagnostic images.

However, Robert Atcher, MD, SNM president, said that the long-term solution to the worldwide isotope shortages isn't necessarily in building new reactors, but in developing new processing facilities, reported CTV from the society's annual meeting in Toronto.