Isotopes & Radiation


Why Japan’s response to Fukushima radiation failed while Utah’s response succeeded

August 18, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear NewsJames Conca

Aboveground atomic bomb test at the Nevada Test Site while troops look on. These clouds of material often wafted over to Utah during the 1950s. (Photo: NNSA)

In 1953, the United States detonated above­ground nuclear weapons during tests at the Nevada Test Site. In 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown occurred in Japan. Both events spread radioactive material over many miles and over population centers. Neither event resulted in any adverse health effects from that radiation.

But the response to the Fukushima event was disastrous because of the irrational and misinformed fear of radiation. That fear—not radiation—killed at least 1,600 people and destroyed the lives of at least another 200,000. That fear seriously harmed the entire economy of Japan, stopped cold the fishing industry and other agriculture in that area, and, overnight, reversed the country’s progress in addressing climate change.

The U.S. tests spread two to three times more radiation than did the events of Fukushima over the people of Utah, particularly the town of St. George. Like with Fukushima, no one was hurt, there was never any increase in cancer rates, and no one died as a result. But in Utah, the economy and people’s lives were unaffected. Why was there such a different result?

NASEM report: U.S. low-dose radiation research needs DOE/NIH leadership

June 3, 2022, 9:29AMNuclear News

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) estimates that $100 million annually will be required for the next 15 years to develop a coordinated research program led by the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health to study how low doses of radiation affect disease risk. The recommended research would investigate causal links to specific health conditions and better define the impacts of radiation doses, dose rates, types of radiation, and exposure duration.

Meltdown: Drama disguised as a documentary

June 3, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear NewsJohn Fabian
The cooling towers of Unit 2 at Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, closed since the accident in 1979.

The Three Mile Island accident in 1979 was the most-studied nuclear reactor event in the U.S. There is a plethora of research about the accident available to the general public, including the president-appointed Kemeny Commission report and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Rogovin inquiry report (split into volume one, and volume two, parts one, two, and three), which are the two detailed government-sponsored investigations into the accident. There are also thousands of documents in the NRC’s ADAMS database available to the public, an excellent overview by NRC historian Samuel Walker Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective, as well as the Nuclear News special report from April 1979, and articles written by ANS members like William Burchill about the accident and the many changes it forced on the industry. If the producers of Meltdown: Three Mile Island—available on Netflix—had read any of those documents instead of relying mostly on input from antinuclear activists, their “documentary” might have been presented with at least some sense of balance and credibility.

Instead, similar to a recent Science Channel documentary on the Three Mile Island accident, Meltdown focuses on drama instead of science. This four-part miniseries does not attempt to provide a balanced set of facts from the technical community and instead relies heavily on nonexpert opinions and anecdotal statements to tell a story that easily falls apart under even the faintest scrutiny.

Nuclear News reached out to multiple ANS members who were involved with either the accident response or the clean up to help provide a critical look at some of the more egregious statements made in the documentary.

Health Physics Society presents “The History of the Linear No-Threshold Model”

April 15, 2022, 7:25AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Calabrese

The Health Physics Society has created a 22-episode video series titled “The History of the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) Model.” The videos feature discussions with Edward J. Calabrese, a renowned toxicologist and a professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The video series begins with an introduction to Calabrese and his contributions to toxicology and radiation risk assessment. Episode 2 covers the origin of the LNT model as a way of explaining the mechanism of biological evolution. Episodes 3 through 5 explore the work of Hermann Muller, raising doubts about his claims regarding gene mutations and his linear dose response concept.

DOE accelerates evaluation of new medical radioisotopes

April 13, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy announced on April 11 that it will distribute $1 million to three awardees to evaluate newly developed radioisotopes for potential therapeutic use in preclinical and clinical trials. The funding is provided by the DOE Isotope Program, which produces isotopes for use in science, medicine, and industry that would otherwise be unavailable or in short supply.

One man’s trash: Extracting valuable isotopes from waste material

March 17, 2022, 9:31AMRadwaste Solutions
A vial containing Th-299 extracted from uranyl nitrate.

This past October, the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and its contractor Isotek successfully completed processing and disposing the low-dose inventory of uranium-233 stored at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), ending a two-year effort that has eliminated a portion of the site’s legacy nuclear material and provided rare nuclear isotopes for next-generation cancer treatment research.

Medical company faces NRC fine for failing to secure sealed sources

February 22, 2022, 12:06PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has proposed a $7,000 fine to Marian Medical Services (MMS), of Wildwood, Mo., for four violations of regulatory requirements related to its licensed activities in Anchorage, Alaska. The violations involved the company’s failure to properly handle, store, and secure five sealed sources that it was licensed to use at its Anchorage medical clinic to perform diagnostic imaging services.

According to an NRC report, the clinic was licensed in 2016 but stopped offering nuclear medicine services in 2018 because there weren’t enough patients to sustain the business.

IAEA launches cancer care program

February 7, 2022, 12:02PMNuclear News
IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi (left) and WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. (Photo: IAEA)

The International Atomic Energy Agency has launched the Rays of Hope program to tackle a severe shortage of cancer care capacity in poorer countries. The program’s initial focus will be on Africa, where people often die from the disease because of the lack of access to potentially life-saving nuclear medicine and radiotherapy, according to the IAEA.

A video on the program is available on YouTube.

SHINE secures funding for Netherlands Mo-99 production facility

February 4, 2022, 12:09PMNuclear News
SHINE’s Mo-99 production facility under construction in Janesville, Wis. (Photo: SHINE)

SHINE Europe, a nascent subsidiary of Wisconsin-based SHINE Technologies, announced Wednesday that it has secured funding to begin designing an advanced medical isotopes facility in Veendam, the Netherlands. The new facility will use the same fusion-based neutron generator system SHINE is employing at its Janesville, Wis., facility to produce medical isotopes, including molybdenum-99, which is used in diagnostic imaging.

The case of the Pu-powered pacemaker

January 20, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
The cover of the August 1969 issue of Nuclear News (left), an image of Brunhilde, the dog that had the first nuclear-powered pacemaker in the U.S. (center) and the cover of the December 1970 Nuclear News (right).

In this first installment of a #ThrowbackThursday post, Nuclear News provides a review of radioisotope-powered pacemakers in response to an article in The Wall Street Journal. The article, published earlier this week, looks at the issue of disposing of nuclear-powered pacemakers, although considering how few are still in use today, it seems like this is really much ado about nothing.

DOE and NNSA partner with SHINE for domestic Mo-99

January 10, 2022, 12:01PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration and Office of Environmental Management (EM) have signed the first contracts under the DOE’s Uranium Lease and Take-back Program with SHINE Technologies. The DOE called it a milestone in its effort to increase domestic production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), a medical isotope used in more than 40,000 medical procedures in the United States each day, without the use of high-enriched uranium.

SHINE Technologies, of Janesville, Wis., is one of the NNSA’s cooperative agreement partners. In October 2021, the NNSA awarded SHINE $35 million to support its efforts to produce Mo-99 commercially by the end of 2023.

Click here for more information on the NNSA efforts to establish a reliable supply of Mo‑99 without the use of HEU.

Supply of Mo-99 sufficient to meet U.S. needs, feds say

December 21, 2021, 9:23AMNuclear News

Secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm and secretary of health and human services (HHS) Xavier Becerra on December 20 jointly certified that the worldwide supply of the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99 produced without the use of high-enriched uranium is now sufficient to meet the needs of patients in the United States.

NNSA issues Mo-99 cooperative agreement to Niowave

December 6, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration has issued a cooperative agreement worth $13 million to Niowave, of Lansing, Mich., to support the commercial production of molybdenum-99, a critical isotope used in more than 40,000 medical procedures in the United States each day, including the diagnosis of heart disease and cancer.

AccAPP’21: The value of accelerators

December 2, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

AccApp'21, the 14th International Topical Meeting on Nuclear Applications of Accelerators, runs through December 4 and is being held as an embedded topical at the 2021 ANS Winter Meeting and Technology Expo in Washington, D.C. The meeting was to be held April 5-9, 2020, at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria—and it was to be known as AccApp’20—but it was postponed because of COVID-19.

AccApp'21 is organized by ANS’s Accelerator Applications Division and cosponsored by Texas A&M University, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, and the IAEA. The meeting’s focus is on the following areas:

  • The production and use of accelerator-produced neutrons, photons, electrons, and other particles for scientific and industrial purposes.
  • The production or destruction of radionuclides significant for energy, medicine, cultural heritage, or other endeavors.
  • Safety and security applications.
  • Medical imaging, diagnostics, and therapeutic treatment.
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Canada authorizes Mo-99 production at Darlington station

November 12, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
Darlington nuclear power plant. (Photo: OPG)

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has amended Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) operating license for its Darlington nuclear power station near Clarington, Ontario, allowing the company to produce the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99 using Darlington’s Unit 2 CANDU reactor. OPG subsidiary Laurentis Energy Partners, in conjunction with BWXT Medical, is leading the program to produce Mo-99 at Darlington.

Radioisotopes: The unseen infrastructure

October 29, 2021, 7:00AMANS Nuclear CafeMatt Reiter

What is one thing that bridges, oil wells, and cancer treatment therapies have in common? Reliance on radioisotopes. Radioisotopes have played an important role in our society for decades, yet their benefits often go unrecognized. As Congress makes progress on new bipartisan infrastructure legislation, radioisotopes are essential to bringing new infrastructure projects to life.

NNSA awards SHINE $35 million for Mo-99 production

October 19, 2021, 2:34PMNuclear News
SHINE Technologies’ headquarters building in Janesville, Wis. (Photo: SHINE)

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration has issued a cooperative agreement worth $35 million to SHINE Technologies, based in Janesville, Wis., to support the commercial production of molybdenum-99, a critical isotope used in more than 40,000 medical procedures in the United States each day, including the diagnosis of heart disease and cancer.

ARTMS submits Ga-68 radioisotope production paperwork with Health Canada

October 18, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
A PET imaging machine. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

ARTMS, a Canadian producer of medical isotopes, announced that it has registered the cyclotron production of gallium-68 with the government of Canada, filing a Type 1 Master File with the Health Products & Food Branch of Health Canada. The Ga-68 radioisotope is used in nuclear medicine diagnostic procedures utilizing positron emission tomography (PET) imaging.

An inventive solution speeds up production of actinium-225

August 5, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Chemist Kevin Gaddis has adapted components of a high-pressure ion chromatography system to withstand the extreme conditions of a hot cell. (Photo: ORNL/Carlos Jones)

An Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher has built a device that can speed up the separation of the medical radioisotope actinium-225 from irradiated thorium targets and withstand the high-radiation environment of a hot cell. In July, ORNL announced that Kevin Gaddis, a chemistry technician at the lab, had built and tested a prototype and was working to secure a patent for a device that cut separations time by 75 percent.