Publication Laka-library:
Nuclear Medicine without Nuclear Reactors or Uranium Enrichment

AuthorAAAS, Updegraff, Hoedl
DateMay 2013

From the publication:

Nuclear Medicine without Nuclear Reactors or Uranium Enrichment

Derek Updegraff and Seth A. Hoedl, Ph.D.
Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy
American Association for the Advancement of Science

June 13, 2013, rev.

All commonly used medical radioisotopes can be produced without using nuclear 
reactors or enriching uranium, or can be replaced with other isotopes that 
can be produced without a fission reaction, or by alternative technologies.
Reactors not using natural uranium fuel require uranium enrichment, therefore 
justifying enrichment facilities that can be used for the production of 
weapons-usable highly enriched uranium (HEU). All reactors also produce 
weapons-usable plutonium as a byproduct of normal operation, although 
those using natural uranium fuel produce the most.
These reactors and enrichment facilities are not necessary for medical 
isotope production. 
Particle accelerators currently produce many medical isotopes. This report 
shows that all commonly used medical isotopes currently produced in reactors 
can be produced in accelerators, or replaced with accelerator-produced 
isotopes or alternative technologies. None of the accelerator options 
discussed herein would involve significant proliferation risk.
The extensive literature on production alternatives for the world’s most 
widely used medical isotope, technetium-99m, makes possible an analysis of 
the cost and security aspects of these alternatives. While there is a good 
deal of uncertainty associated with cost data, since commercial accelerator 
production of Mo-99/Tc-99m has not yet commenced, the data suggest that 
accelerator production has the potential to be cheaper than reactor 
production, and at the very least will not prove prohibitively expensive.
For commonly used isotopes other than technetium-99m, a detailed cost 
estimate for accelerator production is beyond the scope of this paper. 
Nevertheless, it is clear that such alternatives are feasible. It seems 
unlikely that in the aggregate these alternatives would be prohibitively 
expensive. More R&D would support a full transition to commercial supply 
of isotopes other than Tc-99m using accelerator-based processes. Targeted 
investments in R&D for commercial production of the other isotopes, 
through contracts by NIH or DOE, could have substantial impact on the 
commercial availability of accelerator-produced medical isotopes, both 
in the US and abroad.