The reactor shut down in the Netherlands on Saturday for annual maintenance so we are down to 3 plants in the world that produce isotopes. Plants in Australia and South Africa will be picking up the slack to meet supply demands. Nuclear medicine is already seeing shortages in the US and Canada already so the wait could get a bit longer. Some nuclear medicine tests have been cancelled all together at some hospitals that are both follow up and diagnostic procedures. BD
A global shortage of medical isotopes is expected to get worse in two weeks as supplies run down after nuclear reactor closings.
The Petten nuclear reactor in the Netherlands closed for scheduled maintenance Saturday. Together with a Canadian reactor (pictured) in Chalk River, Ontario, that was shut down in May because of a leak, the idled reactors account for two-thirds of the world’s supply of molybdenum-99, the journal Nature reported last week.
The isotope, which decays to technetium-99m, is used for diagnostic tests for heart disease and cancer. When injected into the patient, it gives off energy and is used in diagnostic tests. About 70,000 medical imaging tests use Tc-99m every day.
Supplies may be replenished from reactors in Australia and South Africa, but not all demand will be met, according to Graham. Patients may have to chose more expensive diagnostic techniques, and in some cases, wait it out.