Los Alamos National Laboratory has announced that for the first time, irradiated uranium fuel has been recycled and reused for molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) production, with virtually no losses in Mo-99 yields or uranium recovery.
This demonstrates the viability of the separation process, as well as the potential for environmentally- and cost-friendly fuel recycling. Medical isotope production technology has advanced significantly now that scientists have made key advances in separating Mo-99 from an irradiated, low-enriched uranium (LEU) solution.
Low-Enriched Uranium as a Source of Mo-99
Technetium-99m (Tc-99m) is the most commonly used medical isotope today, accounting for about 50,000 medical imaging procedures daily in the United States. Tc-99m is derived from the parent isotope Mo-99, predominantly produced from the fission of uranium-235 in highly enriched uranium targets (HEU) in aging foreign reactors. The North American supply of Tc-99m was severely disrupted when the Chalk River nuclear reactor in Canada experienced an outage several years ago.