Molybdenum-99, which decays into technetium-99m, is the most commonly used medical imaging isotope in the world, providing almost 100,000 procedures daily. Presently, the US represents about half of global demand for Mo-99 and obtains all of its supply from a handful of nuclear reactors outside the US, the majority of which are over 50 years old. As these reactors approach the end of their life, they are becoming less reliable and experience more and more frequent shutdowns. In 2009-2010, the world’s two largest Mo-99-producing reactors were shut down simultaneously. As a result, the world experienced a Mo-99 supply crisis, and many critical diagnostic tests had to be postponed or substituted with less effective, more expensive tests.
The US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration funded four separate $25M cooperative agreements to develop a domestic supply of Mo-99 using production methods that don’t require HEU. Our parent company SHINE Medical Technologies received one of these awards to develop an accelerator-driven subcritical assembly for Mo-99 production using the Phoenix division’s neutron generator as the driver.
In the spring of 2013, our neutron generator demonstrated neutron yields greater than 3×1011 n/s using the deuterium-deuterium (DD) fusion reaction. It utilizes a proprietary gas target coupled with a custom accelerator and a microwave ion source . System operation is currently being refined in terms of beam current and voltage, measured neutron yield, and operational reliability. Our moly production facility will operate as many as eight of ourneutron generators simultaneously to generate enough Mo-99 to provide more than 10 million people a year with the critical imaging procedures they need.