Molybdenum Production Will Eventually Sneak South of the Border

Since it is Canada Day, I thought I’d revisit a story with a Canadian angle – the squeezing of the global supply chain in molybdenum-99 (much like I did last year).

The Chalk River facility that had a lengthy shutdown that brought the supply problems into focus continues to run well.  It restarted in August 2010, and recently finished a mandated month-long shutdown for maintenance.

Meanwhile, there is at least one effort to establish a U.S. production facility for molybdenum.  If I read the news from Wisconsin correctly, in the last month it was announced that one company has received venture capital funding, in addition to support from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), that would help the put together a proposal for a manufacturing facility.  This effort will produce the isotope without the use of highly enriched uranium, which was a concern because highly enriched uranium runs a risk of spreading weapons-grade nuclear material.

Another Wisconsin company has announced plans to break ground on a molybdenum production facility, again avoiding the use of highly enriched uranium.  Neither effort will be completed before 2013, but given the absence of legislative motion on this issue, it’s nice to see progress in this area.  The NNSA has been able to establish new international sources of molybdenum to address possible supply challenges in the future.  These sources handle about one-third of the supplies needed for medical tests and are produced without highly enriched uranium.

Happy Canada Day, everybody!