Canadian firms make progress with radioisotope production

25 September 2020

Ontario Power Generation (OPG), its subsidiary Laurentis Energy Partners, BWXT ITG Canada Inc and its affiliates yesterday said they are making "significant progress" towards the production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) at OPG's Darlington plant. Darlington will be the first large-scale nuclear power station to produce the medical radioisotope, they said.

(Image: OPG)

OPG announced in June 2018 that Darlington would produce Mo-99 for use in new technetium-99m (Tc-99m) generators designed by BWX Technologies Inc. Over the past 24 months, a team of more than 100 personnel at BWXT and Laurentis have designed specialised tooling to enable the production of Mo-99 at Darlington, and this is now being manufactured at BWXT's facility in Peterborough, Ontario.

BWXT has also built a fabrication facility to produce Mo-99 components that will be delivered by the specialised tooling, which will be installed at Darlington. The tooling will deliver natural molybdenum into the Darlington reactor for irradiation, which will enable Darlington to become the first commercial operating nuclear reactor to produce Mo-99.

Mo-99 is used to generate Tc-99m, which is the world's most widely used radionuclide for medical imaging. Both Tc-99m and the Mo-99 it is generated from have short half-lives and need to be used quickly once they are produced, so a constant, stable supply of them is needed. Mo-99 has primarily been produced by a limited number of research reactors, using enriched uranium targets.

"This advanced equipment is an example of how Laurentis is maximising decades of experience within the nuclear industry for the delivery of innovative solutions," said Dominique Minière, president of Laurentis Energy Partners.

"We are well under way with the transformation of our nuclear medicine facility in Ottawa to be able to process Mo-99 and manufacture Tc-99m generators," BWXT ITG President Martyn Coombs said. "These generators will be used to make radiopharmaceuticals for patients, and will help to resolve historical shortages of this vital product."

OPG is in the process of refurbishing the four Candu reactors at the Darlington plant in a CAD12.8 billion (USD9 billion), 10-year project that will enable the station to operate for an additional 30 years. The first unit to undergo refurbishment - Darlington 2 - returned to service in June and work started on the refurbishment of unit 3 earlier this month.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News