One step closer to producing the life-saving Molybdenum-99 Isotope at Darlington
Mo-99 is used in over 40 million procedures each year, to detect cancers and heart disease
Following an extensive collaboration window involving design, regulatory licencing, manufacturing, planning, and installation, the Molybdenum-99 Target Delivery System at Darlington Unit 2, led by Laurentis Energy Partners and BWXT Medical Ltd. (BWXT), has officially reached the system energization milestone, enabling preliminary testing of the partially installed system.
Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) is a much-needed medical isotope used in over 40 million procedures each year, helping to detect illnesses like cancer and heart disease.
Mo-99 decays to Technetium-99 metastable (Tc-99m), one of the most prevalently used diagnostic imaging agents in nuclear medicine. As such, Mo-99 is an essential radionuclide in the nuclear medicine supply chain.
The Tc-99m Generator program kicked off in 2018 with the design of a specialized system at BWXT’s facility in Peterborough that would enable the production of Mo-99 at Ontario Power Generation (OPG)’s Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. In 2021, regulatory approval of the necessary licence from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission was obtained, enabling the future production of this life-saving isotope. The balance of the system is scheduled for installation, and full system commissioning at Darlington in late 2022.
Energization of the Mo-99 system marks the completion of all installation and commissioning activities for station modifications and equipment not directly connected to the reactor systems. This milestone is a testament to the leadership, determination, and teamwork demonstrated by Laurentis, BWXT, and OPG personnel.
In preparation for Q4 2022, when the remaining components of the Mo-99 system will be installed, the team has started preliminary testing to confirm the functionality of the currently installed equipment.
“This milestone marks a considerable step forward towards the production of this life-saving isotope. I’m proud of the joint team’s efforts in providing a healthier and safer quality of life for millions of people around the world.”
“This milestone marks a considerable step forward towards the production of this life-saving isotope,” said Jennifer Quirt, Director of Commercial Projects at Laurentis. “I’m proud of the joint team’s efforts in providing a healthier and safer quality of life for millions of people around the world.”
On behalf of BWXT Medical, Laurentis is overseeing this project at Darlington. When the production system is operational and FDA and Health Canada approval is obtained, BWXT’s Peterborough operations will manufacture and deliver the molybdenum targets to Darlington for irradiation. Once the targets are irradiated, BWXT Medical will then process the Mo-99 and integrate it into Tc-99m generators.
Since the shutdown of Canada’s National Research Universal reactor in March 2018, North America has not had a stable domestic supply of Molybdenum-99, which has left hospitals to rely on imports from Europe, Africa, and Australia.
Once operational, the arrangement between Laurentis and BWXT will be capable of producing enough Mo-99 to supply a significant portion of the current and future North American demand for this important diagnostic imaging radioisotope.
- Because of the unique design of Ontario’s CANDU reactors, isotopes can be removed and inserted while the reactor is online, without interrupting the station’s generation of clean energy.
- Darlington Nuclear will be the only commercial power reactor source of Molybdenum-99 in the world.