IAEA chief visits future site of world’s nuclear medicine production in Australia

Nuclear medicine is a vital element of modern medical systems and in Australia it is sourced from OPAL, enabling diagnosis and treatment of a variety of cancers, and heart, lung and skeletal conditions

SYDNEY – The head of the world’s nuclear agency visited one of the world’s emerging nuclear facilities in Australia – the new Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) Nuclear Medicine plant in Sydney.

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, visited the site to learn about the status of the new plant which will soon produce international-scale supplies of nuclear medicine – molybdenum-99 (Mo-99).

ANSTO officials briefed Amano on the status of construction of the plant at its Lucas Heights site near Sydney. The plant is expected to produce Mo-99 at a capacity to supply 25% of global demand for nuclear medicine by the end of 2017.

The $168.8 million project is in the final phases of construction, having received its engine room of ten hot cells, and by the end of next year aim to reach full scale production of 10 million doses a year.

“The combination of the nearly complete $168.8 million Ansto Nuclear Medicine Project and the Opal research reactor are two parts of an equation that will take Australian nuclear medicine all around the world,” according to ANSTO.

“Nuclear medicine is a vital element of modern medical systems and in Australia it is sourced from [research reactor] Opal, enabling diagnosis and treatment of a variety of cancers, and heart, lung and skeletal conditions,” it added.

On 12 August, Opal – Open Pool Australian Lightwater – will celebrate ten years since it first went critical.

ANSTO CEO Adrian Paterson said that since Opal achieved its first sustained nuclear chain reaction, it has produced “millions of doses of nuclear medicine used by one in two Australians at some point in their lifetime”. Reactors such as Opal are the “only reliable way” of producing the nuclear medicine Mo-99 “at the quality and scale” needed by hospitals and nuclear medicine centres around the world, Paterson added.

“Every week, Opal assists industries in finding solutions, improving agricultural yields, conducting environmental studies and producing the major components of green energy,” he said. “At Ansto our significant achievements of the past sit alongside our vision for the future, as Mr Amano witnessed, visiting the construction site of Australia’s $168.8 million investment in nuclear medicine for the world.”

In 2012, the Australian government announced plans for the construction of the Mo-99 plant, together with a demonstration waste treatment plant based on Synroc technology for managing the subsequent radioactive by-products. Together, the facilities are known as the Ansto Nuclear Medicine project. Building works on the Synroc waste treatment plant are due to commence next year.

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation

ANSTO is central to Australia’s nuclear medicine manufacturing capabilities. Each week ANSTO delivers 10,000 patient doses of potentially lifesaving nuclear medicines to over 250 hospitals and medical practices across Australia.

Nuclear medicines are used to diagnose a wide range of illnesses including cardiac conditions, cancers and skeletal injuries. It is estimated one in two Australians will benefit from the nuclear medicines that originate from ANSTO.

A new project currently in development at ANSTO will position Australia as a global leader in the high-end manufacturing of nuclear medicine. The ANSTO Nuclear Medicine Project (ANM) is a manufacturing plant that will be located in the heart of the Sutherland Shire in Sydney


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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

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