New, safe production of medical isotopes – no need for nuclear reactor
“…..At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishesScienceNOW) in Vancouver, Canada, Paul Schaffer, head of nuclear medicine at TRIUMF, a nuclear and particle physics laboratory in Vancouver, reported that his team may be nearing a solution. The group previously used a high-energy medical cyclotron to produce Tc-99 from a stable isotope of molybdenum, known as Mo-100. And at the meeting, Schaffer reported that the group has now had success with a GE cyclotron that is the most popular one on the market. Hospitals use medical cyclotrons to generate radioisotopes for medical scans, including fluorine-18 and carbon-11. In the new test, Schaffer’s team used a GE cyclotron to fire protons at a Mo-100 target, ejecting a pair of neutrons and generating Tc-99. The demonstration holds out the hope that existing medical cyclotrons could generate enough Tc-99 to fulfill Canada’s entire demand, Schaffer says. The group is now working to maximize the amount of Tc-99 produced with this method.
“This is wonderful for Canada,” says Robert Atcher, director of the National Isotope Development Center at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. …
upgrading cyclotrons is less expensive than building a new nuclear facility, and outlying hospitals already receive regular supplies of fluorine-18 and other short-lived compounds.
Atcher adds that several other groups are exploring alternative non-reactor-based methods for producing Tc-99. It’s still too early to say which option will come out ahead, he says. No matter which one does, it should lead to a more stable—and safer—supply of a compound that has become essential to modern medicine. http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/02/nuclear-reactors-not-needed-to-m.html?ref=hp
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