The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Tag Archives: Idaho State University

Medical Isotope Shortage Looms as Canada’s Chalk River Reactor Shuts Down

683px-Schematicky_atomAccording to a CBC News report today, Canada’s Chalk River nuclear reactor was shut down for a power outage last Thursday, and Friday inspectors noticed a heavy water leak at the base of the reactor.  The month-long shut down that will be needed for repairs means that only one reactor in the world, the HSR reactor in the Netherlands, will be producing medical isotopes.  The Netherlands reactor can only service about one-third of global demand, and much of its output is committed outside of North America under existing supply contracts.

Because the isotopes have a short half-life, they cannot be stockpiled and the shortage will begin to affect diagnostic capacity by this weekend.  Reactors in Belgium, France and South Africa are currently shut down as well.

A long-term solution may be available, if a joint effort by Canada’s TRIUMF accelerator lab and Ottawa-based medical isotope supplier MDS Nordion succeeds in trying to make the primary isotope (molybdenum–99) in a linear accelerator instead of in nuclear reactors. However, construction on the project doesn’t start until next year, and the first tests would not be until 2013.

An apparently similar effort is underway in a recently-announced collaboration between an Idaho company and Idaho State University.

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