The Safari-1 reactor at the Pelindaba nuclear facility in South Africa has geared up production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) in response to the global shortage of medical isotopes, which has disrupted and halted treatments for cancer patients.
The Pelindaba facility is attempting to fill the gap with round-the-clock, seven-day-a-week production, according to Roland van Gogh, marketing and sales manager for NTP Radioisotopes, a subsidiary of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, reported South Africa Business News.
Pelindaba was established in 1961 and the facility was used to enrich uranium to produce weapon's-grade fissile material. According to Van Gogh, the reactor is now the world's largest producer of Mo-99, which is used in 80 percent of nuclear medicine procedures.
Although Pelindaba had stepped up its output by 15 percent and was now selling everything it could produce, there is still a global shortfall, as the Chalk River National Research Universal Reactor (NRU) had been responsible for half of the radioactive medical isotopes used by oncology clinics and hospitals in the United States.
The shortages, caused by the three-month Chalk River shutdown due to water leaks, will be aggravated by a second shutdown, when the Petten facility in the Netherlands is closed for scheduled repairs next month, according to South Africa Business News.