Wisconsin company SHINE Medical Technologies said it had begun construction of Building One at its new Janesville, Wis., campus that will be used to produce the medical isotope molybdenum-99 that is critical in imaging to detect such conditions as cancer and heart disease.
The isotope that deteriorates into technetium-99, used in 40 million imaging procedures each year, is a fast-reacting radioactive material that has a half life of less than three days, which makes supply a critical issue, since it cannot be stockpiled. Further, the Canadian reactor that supplied the world with 40 percent of the isotope in the past, the National Research Universal reactor, stopped production in 2016, forcing other facilities around the world to step up to meet demand. None of those reactors that increased their output are in North America, however. The last molybdenum-99 production in the United States ceased in 1989, according to the World Nuclear Association.
Historically, the WNA said, the isotope has been produced from highly-enriched uranium. The Department of Energy, however, has been working with U.S. firms to change that process in hopes of establishing a domestic producer using a system that sidesteps the need for highly-enriched uranium, which is a “proliferation risk,” the WNA said. SHINE does not use a reactor to produce moly-99, but instead uses a “accelerator-driven sub-critical assembly,” according to the WNA.
SHINE said the first building would be used for production, but also to serve as a laboratory “in which we're going to continue to develop new technologies to keep SHINE at the forefront of not just medical isotope production, but to go beyond that.”
The company's prototype production line is in Monoma, Wisc., where the firm includes a workforce of 56 employees. At the new facility, about 150 jobs are will be created, local media reported.
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