Energy Department Makes It Easier For Domestic Producers Of Medical Isotopes

Tucked into the defense authorization bill of 2013 is the American Medical Isotopes Production Act (AMIPA), legislation intended to support domestic production of radioactive isotopes that have medical applications.  This has been an ongoing issue for years, since one of the few worldwide sources had to shut down production for a period.  The production of sufficient medical isotopes is complicated by an interest in avoiding the spread of highly enriched uranium, which can also be used for nuclear weapons.

Part of the AMIPA is the Uranium Lease and Take-Back Program (ULTP), which the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration set up in January.  The Department will lease excess low-enriched uranium (LEU) to medical isotope producers for them to irradiate and generate the needed isotopes.  If the producer lacks access to a waste path, the Department will use take-back contracts to retain the byproducts of isotope generation, including the waste.  The program will help control supplies of nuclear fissile material and share some of the burden isotope producers face as they make their product.

Worth noting in the Department analysis is the number of potential isotope producers looking to participate in the program, and the different means they seek to use for production.  Should all of them be successful, problems at one production facility are much less likely to hamper global need for medical isotopes.

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