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High Flux reactor on target for Sept. re-start

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | August 27, 2010
Almost done.
A reactor responsible for supplying more than half of Europe's medical isotope needs is on target for its re-start next month.

The High Flux reactor in Petten, Netherlands should be fully powered up by Sept. 9, the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group, which operates the site, said Thursday.

Before turning it back online, crews have to finish reassembling reactor parts and setting up the sub-pile room, the one directly beneath the reactor core. The plant also must undergo a final safety inspection.
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The half-century-old medical isotope-producing reactor has been down since February to fix corroded cooling pipework. It shut down at the same time as another important isotope producer; the National Research Universal reactor in Chalk River, Ontario, was also undergoing repairs, disrupting the world supply of medical isotopes.

The NRU reactor went live earlier this month, with some clinics already receiving the first shipments of molybdenum-99, the isotope made in the reactor.

Repairs to the High-Flux reactor's pipework wrapped up in July, and crews have pulled out the "densimet" radiation shielding, which protected them during shifts in the bowels of the reactor.

"The removal took place using tools specially fabricated for this purpose. Despite these tools, a lot of skill and handcraft was required to ensure the controlled removal of the 'densimet' components," Chris van Wijk, a shielding project manager, said in a statement.

The High Flux reactor meets around 60 percent of European demand for medical isotopes, according to the NRG's website.