Agreement to spur US production of iridium isotope

15 November 2023

A joint product agreement between the US Department of Energy Isotope Program and QSA Global Inc is intended to lead to the re-establishment of domestic production of iridium-192. The USA has been dependent on imports of the isotope for the last 20 years.

(Image: NIDC)

Iridium-192 (Ir-192) is used in industrial gamma ray radiography for non-destructive testing to detect structural damage to metal parts such as castings, forgings, and weld defects. The technique is crucial for ensuring the quality of manufacturing processes, particularly in sectors such as shipbuilding, auto manufacturing, and aerospace, and is also used for on-site integrity assessments of oil and gas pipelines.

With a half-life of 73.8 days, Ir-192 is produced by the neutron irradiation of 99.9% iridium metal targets, usually inside a nuclear reactor.

The agreement will see Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) collaborate with Massachusetts-based QSA Global, an international supplier of radiation sources used in testing and measurement applications, to finalise a reactor target design and prepare associated packaging and transportation procedures for shipment of targets back to QSA. The partners plan to begin routine irradiations with new product for high-priority domestic applications in 2024.

ORNL produces, purifies, and ships more than 300 stable and radioactive isotopes used in medicine, research, industry, and space exploration in the High Flux Isotope Reactor.

The Department of Energy (DOE) Isotope Program, part of the Office of Science, produces critical radioactive and stable isotopes that are in short supply or that no domestic entity has the infrastructure or core competency to produce. The programme funds the National Isotope Development Center, which manages the coordination of isotope production across facilities at national laboratories including ORNL.

"Part of the mission of the DOE Isotope Program is to reduce US dependency on foreign supply," said DOE Isotope Program Director Jehanne Gillo. "We are extremely pleased to work with QSA Global Inc to re-establish a U.S. supply of this critical radioisotope to promote stability to an otherwise fragile supply chain."

"We appreciate our long-term, reliable supply of isotopes from the DOE Isotope Program and look forward to adding Ir-192 to the list," said Jake Bourn, vice president and general manager of QSA Global, adding that this will strengthen the supply chain, benefit domestic manufacturing, and strengthen US energy independence.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News