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Task Force on Alternatives for Medical-Isotope Production

23 October 2008

With the demand for medical isotopes such as molybdenum-99 on the rise, TRIUMF is exploring the feasibility of using an accelerator-based solution to provide an alternative to the traditional methods used to create them. To that end, TRIUMF, UBC, and Advanced Applied Physics Solutions, Inc., with the support of Natural Resources Canada, convened a Task Force on Alternatives for Medical-Isotope Production on October 19 and 20.

Canada produces over half the global supply of medical isotopes, and the majority of those are produced at AECL’s research reactor in Chalk River, Ontario. With demand for the isotopes rising, and concerns about the age and reliability of the reactor at Chalk River, along with four others around the world, alternatives are being sought in order to increase the supply of medical isotopes to avoid potential shortages.

TRIUMF has a long history of producing medical isotopes using cyclotrons as a partner of MDS Nordion, a life sciences company that supplies medical isotopes, radiotherapeutics, and other technologies to over 50 countries, but these isotopes are distinct from those produced by reactors. As accelerator technology has advanced significantly over the past decade, the special Task Force was convened in order to explore whether the predominant isotopes could be produced using photons produced by an electron accelerator instead of neutrons generated by nuclear reactors (the traditional technique).

Over the course of the two days, the Task Force examined the possibilities for alternative medical-isotope production using technology developed at TRIUMF. The workshop detailed Canada’s current isotope production and the international market before analyzing the accelerator-based technique in terms of yields, efficiencies, and overall feasibility.

A written report from the workshop will be completed and made available to the public within 21 days of October 20. The Task Force leaders will also be available at that time for comments and discussion.

Banner photo courtesy of stock.xchng.

By Kaitlan Huckabone
TRIUMF's Communications Assistant