Dutch nuclear reactor reopens, ready to produce medical isotopes

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The High Flux nuclear reactor at Petten in the Netherlands was brought online this week, bringing an end to the threat of a shortage of medical isotopes used for the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases.

Last week, Fred Verzijlbergen of the Dutch society of nuclear medicine told Novum that sufficient supplies of isotopes from other reactors would be delivered on Friday. "This keeps us stocked until next Wednesday or Thursday when production at Petten can begin," he said.

The facility was closed down in August 2008 when air bubbles were found in its cooling system, and was due to reopen in November following repairs to the water cooling system. However, in October 2008, the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group announced that the facility would remain shuttered until Feb. 16 "for safety reasons."

The Petten reactor produces one-third of the world's medical isotopes and is just one of four nuclear reactors supplying the pharmaceutical sector. The others are in France, Belgium, Canada and South Africa.