Belgium's BR2 isotope reactor steps up to the plate
Belgium's BR2 isotope reactor steps up to the plate: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Isotope_reactor_steps_up_to_the_plate_0205131.html
note that NRU is also down for scheduled maintenance until May 15:
"Belgium's BR2 reactor is to run an additional production cycle to
guarantee supplies of vital medical isotopes while the Netherlands' HFR
reactor remains out of action due to unforeseen problems. The extra
cycle runs from 25 April to 15 May, said BR2 operator SCK-CEN. This will
produce mainly molybdenum-99, which is used in hospitals to produce the
technetium-99m used in 80% of medical examinations using radioisotopes.
It will also produce various isotopes used in cancer treatments during
the period, guaranteeing supplies to hospitals in Belgium and other
countries in cooperation with radiopharmaceutical company Covidien.
Eight reactors around the world are the main producers of medical
isotopes, but the short-lived nature of the materials themselves means
that a constant supply is vital. HFR, at Petten in the Netherlands,
normally supplies some 60% of Europe's molybdenum-99 but this was shut
down for scheduled maintenance in November 2012 and has been kept off
line after of an anomaly was discovered in its water cooling system.
Operator NRG currently does not anticipate restarting the reactor before
the second half of May. Most of the world's main molybdenum-99
production reactors have been operating since the 1960s or, in the case
of the Chalk River NRU, the 1950s. Australia's Opal, which started up in
2006, is a notable exception. The implications for security of supply
of unexpected or extended outages was illustrated in 2010: at the same
time as Canada's NRU research reactor was off-line for urgent repairs,
it became clear that HFR was also in need of major maintenance. The
unavailability of two of the world's major isotope production reactors
at the same time led to a worldwide shortage of the vital isotopes and
the postponement of many thousands of medical procedures. "
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