This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today


Securing the supply of medical isotopes

By Hamish Johnston

Over the past few years the supply of Mo-99 — which is used to make the medical isotope Tc-99m — has been threatened by two unscheduled shutdowns of the ageing NRU reactor in Chalk River, Canada.

Normally NRU supplies North America with Tc-99m and accounts for a significant chunk of world production, so any prolonged shutdown is bad news.

That’s why the Canadian government convened the Expert Review Panel On Medical Isotope Production earlier this year to identify the most viable options for future isotope production.

The panel has just submitted its report and you can read all 135 pages of it here .

The main recommendation is the replacement of NRU with another multi-purpose research reactor that would supply isotopes as well as fulfilling other scientific functions. However, revenues from isotope production would only offset about 10-15% of the cost of such a reactor — so other research activities would have to justify the bulk of the price tag.

The panel also recommends that Tc-99m production in a cyclotron accelerator, be investigated. Although this would involve a significant amount of research and development, the infrastructure is already in place in several places in Canada.

Could we see the rebirth of the University of Manitoba cyclotron?

This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile


  1. Ender

    Thanks for the information. It is an important issue to follow.
    The situation is even worse than it looks at first sight. If you go to, you’ll find the last paragraph says:
    “However, the second most prolific producer of isotopes, the HFR at Petten in the Netherlands is also in need of repair. It also has a minor leak, with tiny bubbles of gas passing from a pipe wall into the primary cooling system, but this pipe will be difficult to repair as it is located underneath the reactor and encased in concrete which also forms part of the biological shield. The reactor’s operator, NRG, has an extraordinary licence to run the reactor in its current interim state until March 2010, but then must make the major repair.”

  2. David Asgeirsson

    The US appears to be pursuing the development of their own medical isotope capability as a result of the recent shortage. If this is followed through to completion that would likely remove a large amount of the potential income for a new Canadian reactor.


  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="">IOP</blockquote>
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text