The Institute for radioelements (IRE), one of the leaders in the production of Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), the most widely used radio-isotope in nuclear medicine for diagnosis, announced today that the company produced its first commercial Mo-99 Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) batch for the US market.
Fleurus, Belgium – April 30th, 2020 - The Institute for radioelements (IRE), one of the leaders in the production of Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), the most widely used radio-isotope in nuclear medicine for diagnosis, announced today that the company produced its first commercial Mo-99 Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) batch for the US market.
This conversion to LEU represents a key milestone for IRE in the global commitment to end the civil use of High Enriched Uranium (HEU) for the production of Mo-99 medical isotopes. This demonstrates its unique capacity to carry out advanced R&D activities while maintaining during the last two years its highest production output to serve the global market during temporary or unplanned outages of some alternative suppliers of medical radioisotopes. It achieves the first step of the complex development of an entirely new industrial process to supply healthcare professionals with Mo-99. This conversion will include very soon the production process for Iodine -131 (I-131), essential and irreplaceable radionuclide for thyroid cancer treatments, based on LEU. Despite the additional burden induced by the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 crisis, our teams could maintain and complete their planning to receive the authorization from the FANC, the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control in Belgium.Conversion to LEU will positively impact Safety and Security on site, two components inseparable of our IRE activity, since this new LEU production flow takes place in refurbished installations that bring many advantages in terms of nuclear safety and nuclear security for our teams.
This first production was completed with uranium targets irradiated in the BR-2, the Belgian research reactor located at SCK CEN in Mol, a key partner of IRE in the production of radioisotopes.
IRE will conduct this conversion in progressive steps, in the coming months with a dedicated part of the produced volumes of Mo-99 to supply the US market, and will later increase its volume to allow the supply of LEU-based Mo-99 to all regions, until the full conversion is achieved, at the latest by 2022. IRE will do its best to maintain until then a sufficient level of HEU-based production to validate its final industrial process for the purification of I-131 LEU and at the same time allows all its clients to convert their regulatory files for I-131 based products.
Mrs. Marie-Christine Marghem, Minister of Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development and Minister responsible for IRE, stated: "Despite the restrictions related to the health crisis, IRE has continued its efforts and has made it possible to collaborate in the implementation of our national strategy for the production of medical radioisotopes. I intend to maintain Belgian expertise in this area while respecting our international commitments to fight proliferation. Moreover, the completion of this project underlines the importance of funding research dedicated to medical solutions. »
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