Department of Energy Working to Ensure Domestic Production of Medical Isotopes

Molybdenum-99, technetium-99m among most important products

Molybdenum-99 is being produced right here in the United States for the first time since the late 1980s, and the U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) aims to keep it that way.

In February 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first Mo-99 that is domestically produced without the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU). Wisconsin-based NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes will produce Mo-99 in Missouri using a neutron-capture process that does not rely on the use of any uranium, but rather, stable molybdenum target material. Until recently, foreign vendors supplied 100 percent of the parent isotope, which was mostly produced using HEU.

The NNSA is supporting efforts to make Mo-99 without the use of HEU, through funding and support of legislation and research. NNSA awarded four $25 million cooperative agreements to three private companies on a 50/50 cost-share basis to accelerate the establishment of a domestic, commercial, non-HEU-based Mo-99 production capability.

The organization also provides funding for non-proprietary, national laboratory technical support across the country.

“We wanted to help prepare for the commercial production of molybdenum-99 here in the United States at full-cost-recovery pricing,” said Chris Bryan, a Mo-99 research leader. “We were excited to assist domestic efforts that don’t use highly enriched uranium.”

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