First isotope harvest from Chalk River

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | August 19, 2010
Producing isotopes from
Chalk River material
After more than a year, one of the world's most important suppliers of medical isotopes is back in business. The Atomic Energy of Canada Limited said Wednesday it acquired the first harvest of molybdenum-99 from the National Research Universal reactor.

"We've moved back into a production mode, and harvesting isotopes and we're moving into our regular 28-day operating cycle," Bill Pilkington, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, said on a video release.

The isotopes should reach U.S. clinics as soon as early next week, according to Lantheus Medical Imaging, which supplies radiopharmaceuticals.

“Lantheus will manufacture their first lot of TechneLite produced with NRU sourced material this weekend," Bill Dawes, vice president of manufacturing and supply chain for the N. Billerica, Mass.-based company, told DOTmed News by email. "This material will be in hospitals and clinics on Monday.”

The 52-year-old NRU reactor, located in Chalk River, Ontario, has been out of commission since May 2009 to repair a heavy water leak. Its shutdown coincided with repairs to another isotope-producing plant, the High Flux Reactor in Petten, Netherlands, leading to a disruption in the global supply of medical isotopes. The Petten reactor is set to go back online next month.

CEO Hugh MacDiarmid hoped to reassure the public, and nuclear medicine specialists, that the reactor would run smoothly - at least until its expected retirement in 2016.

"We have a commitment to the marketplace, and we have a commitment to Canadians, and we've invested heavily in making sure the NRU is going to be as reliable as it has ever been," he said in a video release.

"We're glad to be back to business as usual."