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In January 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) successfully established the Uranium Lease and Take-Back (ULTB) program, as directed in the American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2012, to support the commercial production of the medical isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) in the United States using low enriched uranium (LEU). With the establishment of the ULTB program, DOE ensures that commercial producers of LEU-based Mo-99 will have access to material and services needed from DOE to produce this important medical isotope in the United States.
Through the ULTB Program, DOE will make LEU available, through lease contracts, from the Department’s excess uranium inventory for irradiation for the domestic production of Mo-99 for medical uses. In addition, through take-back contracts, DOE/NNSA will retain responsibility for the final disposition of spent nuclear fuel created by the irradiation, processing, or purification of leased LEU and take title to and be responsible for the radioactive waste created by the irradiation, processing, or purification of leased LEU, for which the Secretary of Energy determines the producer does not have access to a disposal path.
Managed by the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation’s Material Management and Minimization Program, with support from the DOE Environmental Management Program, the ULTB Program is a critical element of the DOE/NNSA’s ongoing support for the establishment of a domestic, commercial Mo-99 production capability that does not use proliferation-sensitive highly enriched uranium (HEU). To support this goal, DOE/NNSA is currently supporting four commercial projects for Mo-99 production in the United States by providing up to $25 million for each project on a 50-percent/50-percent cost-share basis.
“The establishment of the Uranium Lease and Take-Back Program is an important milestone that demonstrates DOE/NNSA’s ongoing commitment to facilitating the production of Mo-99 in the United States without the use of HEU,” said Anne Harrington, NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. “The ULTB Program will provide services needed to make new, commercial sources of Mo-99 in the United States available for patients in a way that is consistent with the goals outlined through the Nuclear Security Summit process and strengthens the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.”
The ULTB program is part of the DOE/NNSA’s strategy to ensure reliable, commercial supplies of Mo-99 are produced in the United States without the use of HEU. Mo-99 is an important material, because it’s radioactive decay product is technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the most widely used radioisotope in medical diagnostic imaging. Tc-99m is used in approximately 80 percent of nuclear diagnostic imaging procedures, equating to about 50,000 medical procedures in the United States every day.
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhancesthe safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear explosive testing; works to reduce the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad. Visit www.nnsa.energy.gov for more information.