SCK•CEN temporarily fulfils up to 50% of world demand for medical radioisotopes with extra production cycle

2013-04-18

BR2 reactor in operationReactor BR2 at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre will run an additional cycle for the production of radioisotopes for nuclear medicine from 25 April up to 15 May 2013 inclusive. This will guarantee supplies to Belgian and foreign hospitals in cooperation with the radiopharmaceutical company COVIDIEN.

Because of an unforeseen interruption to production at one of the main producers of medical radioisotopes, the HFR reactor in the Netherlands, the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre is running an additional production cycle. This mainly concerns the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99, from which hospitals obtain technetium-99m. This is used in 80% of all medical examinations involving radioisotopes. In Belgium 2,000 examinations are carried out every day using this radioisotope. This concerns 100,000 patients every day around the world. Furthermore, reactor BR2 will also handle production of radio isotopes used to treat various forms of cancer during this period.

Worldwide, there are eight reactors that can produce these medical radioisotopes. Because of the short storage time, a constant supply with short delivery times is absolutely vital. To safeguard supplies, production at different facilities is coordinated on an international level.

With its research reactor BR2, SCK•CEN is one of the main producers of radioisotopes for the medical sector. Following earlier problems with supply security in 2010, due to the unexpected unavailability of research reactors abroad, the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre increased its production capacity by 50%. SCK•CEN supplies 25% of world demand for molybdenum-99 on an annual basis. At peak times reactor BR2 can supply 65% of the weekly demand.

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