Nuclear reactors and the fading business case of medical isotope irradiation

As you might know, nuclear rectors are also being used in the production chain of isotopes. In the Netherlands, there is currently a plan to build a new research reactor, Pallas, as the successor of the EC-owned High Flux Reactor in Petten. We see there is a strong tie between the community operating a reactor for isotope production, and continuing R&D on nuclear power in general. Also isotope-production with particle accelerators has a few essential advantages, notable less or no long lived waste, no need for fission products and a decentralization of production.
Laka has been conducting a strong campaign against the plans, focusing on new means of irradiating/producing medical isotopes, mostly with accelerators.
The operator of the HFR, ECN/NRG, is also in charge of a cleanup operation for legacy nuclear waste at their site. As they claimed that they couldn't shoulder the financial burden for the legacy waste they threatened with filing a bankrupt which would also stop the production of isotopes. So in October ECN/NRG got a quick €40 million subsidy from the national government, to continue with waste processing and with the irradiation activities for isotope production.

In February, Laka made a transparency request on the documentation of ECN/NRG on which the government decided to grant this subsidy. These documents have now been (partially) released. As the assessment by Strategy&/PWC of the financial forecast for ECN/NRG is in English and also might have implications on other sites where medical isotopes are being produced (notably IRE/BR-2 in Belgium, the Maria reactor in Poland, and also more overseas) it might be interesting. For us the most interesting is of course the documented increased capacity - in the operators own writing! - which is outpacing the slowly increasing demand. This outs the necessity of a new reactor in Petten in a pale light. Read our news item on it at (in Dutch).