Much of modern medicine relies on the use of radioactive isotopes, many of which are derived from molybdenum-99. Since the Chalk River facility in Canada was shut down for several months, there have been efforts to enable a domestic capacity to produce the isotope. The U.S. has lacked such capacity for decades. Legislation to push forward on domestic production is stalled in the Senate.
One of the ways the U.S. has tried to address the problem has borne fruit. As the American Institute of Physics reports, a means to produce molybdenum-99 with low-enriched uranium has produced enough to address at least one company’s near-term medical testing needs. The isotope has typically needed high-enriched uranium for production, which is the kind of uranium needed for nuclear weapons. With the support of the National Nuclear Security Administration the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization and the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa can now produce large-scale quantities of molybdenum-99 without adding to the challenge of nuclear non-proliferation. Hopefully domestic production is not far away.