Welsh plan for new nuclear medicine laboratory

10 January 2023

The Welsh government is funding a technical feasibility study and outline business plan to secure future supplies of medical isotopes by developing an Advanced Radioisotope Technology for Health Utility Reactor, known as Project ARTHUR.

North west Wales has a long nuclear energy history - Trawsfynydd Magnox was retired in 1991, with plans to develop small modular reactors at the site (Image: Magnox Ltd)

The UK government devolves health issues to the Welsh government, which says that the proposed facility in north west Wales would be a "global centre of excellence in nuclear medicine" and supply the UK with the medical radioisotopes required for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancer.

The Welsh government says that, as things stand, exisiting facilities coming towards the end of their lives means the UK could have to start rationing medical isotopes by 2030 which could harm patient outcomes. Project ARTHUR would supply the National Health Service in Wales as well as the rest of the UK with medical isotopes and would be a "commitment of 60 to 70 years".

The project goal is also to create a "technology campus" in north Wales, such as those at Harwell and Culham in Oxfordshire and at Daresbury in Cheshire.

Welsh Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said the vision was to create "a world-leading nuclear medicine facility, which will bring together a critical mass of nuclear science research, development, and innovation".

He said: "Through this development, not only can Wales become the leading place in the UK for medical radioisotope production - producing life-saving medical radioisotopes that are critical to cancer diagnosis and treatment - but we can also attract higher skilled jobs, create a surrounding infrastructure, support local communities, and build local supply chains."

The project, he said, requires funding from a range of sources, including the UK government, urging them to "cooperate in supporting our efforts since this development benefits and supports future cancer diagnostics and treatment right across the UK ... the implications of not acting will be counted in human lives".

He added: "We must prevent a future health and economic crisis. I have, therefore, approved funding for a technical feasibility study and for the development of an Outline Business Plan. This plan will build on technical work already undertaken and the earlier Strategic Outline Business Plan."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News