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WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) announced that it will award a cooperative agreement to General Atomics (GA) to support its project for domestic production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) without highly enriched uranium (HEU).
Mo-99 is the parent isotope of technetium-99m, which is the most widely used radioisotope in medical diagnostic imaging and is used in approximately 80 percent of nuclear diagnostic imaging procedures in the United States, equating to about 50,000 medical procedures every day. The United States currently does not have a domestic production capability for Mo-99 and must import its supply from foreign producers. Under the American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2012, and through its long-standing nonproliferation mission, NNSA is working to support the establishment of reliable supplies of Mo-99 while minimizing the use of HEU in civilian applications. This project with General Atomics meets both of these important goals.
NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington said, “This cooperative agreement exemplifies NNSA’s ongoing commitment to accelerate the establishment of domestic production of this important medical isotope, and demonstrates that the Government and commercial industry can work together to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation while providing stability to an important part of the medical radioisotope market. The development of commercial technologies to produce Mo-99 without the use of HEU will ensure that patients have access to the care they need while advancing global nuclear nonproliferation objectives.”
Originally selected for award through a 2010 Funding Opportunity Announcement, GA joins the suite of companies receiving NNSA funding to develop unique technical pathways to produce Mo-99 in the United States without the use of HEU. The award, under which NNSA will contribute $9.7 million, is provided via a cost-share arrangement, with GA and its partners matching NNSA funds dollar for dollar.
The project is supported by the University of Missouri Research Reactor, with its isotope production experience and reliable operating history, and Nordion, with North America’s only active Mo-99 purification capability. The collaborative project by GA, MURR, and Nordion combines the nuclear and radioisotope supply capabilities of MURR and Nordion with General Atomics' selective gas extraction technology—which allows their low-enriched uranium (LEU) targets to remain in the reactor for repeated irradiation and extraction of Mo‑99—to produce Mo-99 suitable for use in all existing Tc-99m generators. As with each of NNSA’s 50 percent/50 percent cost-shared projects, NNSA’s contribution under the GA cooperative agreement is capped at $25 million.
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 enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce 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 United States and abroad.
For more information on NNSA efforts to establish a reliable supply of Mo-99 without the use of HEU, click here.