The supply of radioactive isotopes for medical use is regularly at risk due to a limited number of suppliers and the fact that nuclear reactors are involved. The Canadian government just allotted funds to sponsor a project which may lead to the generation of molybdenum-99 using X-rays powered by a linear accelerator.
From an announcement by the Canadian Light Source, which received C$12 million to fund the Medical Isotope Project:
The project will use a high energy linear accelerator to bombard coin-sized discs of molybdenum-100 with X-rays to produce molybdenum-99 isotope. The molybdenum-99 decays into technetium-99m, the isotope used in approximately 5500 diagnostic medical procedures in Canada every day.
The proposal calls for the construction and testing of a prototype production facility at the CLS to assess the technical and economic feasibility of the approach. NRC will provide design expertise as well as theoretical modeling and technical support, using an automated radionuclide separator from NorthStar to harvest the isotopes. Finally, clinical validation studies will be conducted by researchers with the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and the University Health Network in Toronto.
Image: Diagram of the proposed process. An electron beam from a linear accelerator is used to produce high-energy X-rays. X-rays shine on a target consisting of molybdenum-100 (Mo-100) discs. An X-ray strikes the nucleus of a Mo-100 atom, knocking away a neutron to create molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), which decays to become technetium-99m (Tc-99m). A radionuclide separator separates the Tc-99m from the Mo-100 so that it can be injected into patients undergoing medical tests. The Mo-100 can then be recycled into new targets.
Press release: Canadian-led team aims to produce medical isotopes without nuclear reactor
Link: CLS medical isotope project…