By Brian Casey, staff writer

August 8, 2018 -- Shipments of the key radioisotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) should begin again this week from an Australian nuclear reactor after a shutdown that began in June, according to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO).

ANSTO announced on August 3 that it expected its Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) reactor to resume Mo-99 shipments the week of August 6. OPAL produces Mo-99 that is shipped to hospitals and imaging facilities in generators that are used to produce technetium-99m, a commonly used radioisotope for nuclear medicine studies.

ANSTO was forced to stop shipments of Mo-99 generators in June, when a mechanical issue developed in a conveyor belt at a facility next to the OPAL reactor. The agency has pointed out that operations of the reactor itself were not affected.

The OPAL reactor is the only source of Mo-99 in Australia, and it also supplies imaging facilities in other parts of the Asia-Pacific region, with about 250 sites in all performing approximately 10,000 exams a week. To meet demand, Mo-99 has been shipped into Australia from the U.S., but delays have also occurred with those shipments.

In announcing the resumption, ANSTO reported that the malfunction with the conveyor belt has been repaired, and quality control tests were being finalized in a controlled start-up process.

The OPAL reactor is one of a handful of sources for Mo-99 around the world. The shutdown of shipments from one site can have ripple effects around the globe, leading the nuclear medicine community to seek out alternative sources for production that do not rely on nuclear reactors.

Copyright © 2018

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