Isotopes & Radiation


Forward fusion: Building a nuclear future in Wisconsin

January 13, 2023, 3:27PMNuclear NewsTim Gregoire
SHINE’s isotope production building, called the Chrysalis, under construction in October 2022.

In a former farm field just outside the historic town of Janesville in south-central Wisconsin, a large concrete-and-steel building is taking shape. Dubbed the Chrysalis, the building will eventually house eight accelerator-based neutron generators, which start-up company SHINE Technologies will use to produce molybdenum-99. As the precursor to the medical radioisotope technetium-99m, Mo-99 is used in tens of millions of diagnostic procedures every year, primarily as a radioactive tracer.

At the heart of the Chrysalis will be the high-flux neutron generators, being supplied by SHINE’s sister company, Phoenix. The compact accelerators use a deuterium-tritium fusion process to produce neutrons, which in turn induce a subcritical fission reaction in an aqueous low-enriched uranium target (19.75 percent uranium-235) to produce Mo-99.

DOE evaluates wearable robotic devices to aid cleanup workforce

November 4, 2022, 7:09AMRadwaste Solutions
Nicholas Spivey, left, an SRNL mechanical engineer, and Kurt Gerdes, director of EM’s Office of Technology Development, use virtual reality simulation of an EM worksite during meetings held at the IHMC in Pensacola, Fla. (Photo: DOE)

For the first time since forming in 2020, more than 40 members of a Department of Energy team met in person to evaluate technologies, including exoskeletons and wearable robotic devices, that could be adapted to the cleanup mission of department’s Office of Environmental Management (EM), helping improve the safety and well-being of its workers.

The trouble with tritium

October 31, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear NewsJames Conca

The trouble with tritium is there is no trouble with tritium.

At any level outside the laboratory, either experimental or manufacturing, tritium is harmless. Every year, we routinely release millions of gallons of slightly tritiated water to the ocean, large lakes, and large rivers from almost every commercial nuclear reactor in the world, and have done so for decades, all in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards. And no adverse effects on the environment or humans have ever been seen.

Interactive Isotopes App launches on ANS website

October 27, 2022, 3:01PMANS News
A screenshot of the Interactive Isotopes App from the ANS website depicting U-235 and its decay chain. (Graphic: ANS)

In the summer of 2019, three students from the University of South Carolina–Aiken (USCA) had an idea to digitize the isotope. Wei Zheng, Drake Jones, and Joseph Taylor set out to design an app that would be an interactive one-stop shop for information about any isotope—number of protons and neutrons, whether it is stable or radioactive, its natural abundance on earth, and even its uses. From these ideas, the Interactive Isotopes App began to take shape.

The app’s launch was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic; although it was complete after three years of work and development, the creators sat on it. On October 12, the app at long last went live on the ANS website.

DOE breaks ground on isotope production center at Oak Ridge

October 26, 2022, 12:20PMNuclear News
Secretary Granholm, center, leads breaking the ground for the SIPRC at ORNL, along with (from left) ORNL site manager Johnny Moore, ORNL director Thomas Zacharia; DOE undersecretary for science and innovation Geraldine Richmond; and DOE Office of Science director Asmeret Asefaw Berhe. (Photo: Genevieve Martin/ORNL/DOE)

The Department of Energy held a groundbreaking ceremony on October 24 for the Stable Isotope Production and Research Center (SIPRC) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The center is being built to expand the nation’s capability to enrich stable isotopes for medical, industrial, and research applications.

SHINE’s Tb isotope production project receives Dutch approval

October 24, 2022, 6:46AMNuclear News
A rendering of the SHINE medical isotope production facility planned for construction in Veendam, the Netherlands. (Image: SHINE)

SHINE Europe, a subsidiary of Wisconsin-based SHINE Technologies, will work with the Netherlands’ University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) to produce a variety of terbium isotopes for use in nuclear medicine under a grant proposal approved by the Dutch government on October 17.

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.