Shortage of medical isotopes ramps up after reactor closing
A global shortage of medical isotopes is expected to get worse in two weeks as supplies run down after nuclear reactor closings. The Petten nuclear reactor in the Netherlands closed for scheduled maintenance Saturday. Together with a Canadian reactor (pictured) in Chalk River, Ontario, that was shut down in May because of a leak, the idled reactors account for two-thirds of the world’s supply of molybdenum-99, the journal Nature reported last week. The isotope, which decays to technetium-99m, is used for diagnostic tests for heart disease and cancer. When injected into the patient, it gives off energy and is used in diagnostic tests. About 70,000 medical imaging tests use Tc-99m every day. Michael Graham, president of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and director of nuclear medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, said that most testing locations have enough Mo-99 this week. “Some time during August, there will be a prolonged period with small quantities of isotope,” he said. Graham also expects a shortage of Iodine-131, an isotope used to treat thyroid cancer and hyperthyroidism, to develop in August.
The Wall Street Journal by Gayathri Vaidyanathan July 22, 2009