NNSA Awards US $ 37 Million to Promote US Production of Critical Medical Isotope

WASHINGTON, DC – The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has signed two $ 37 million collaborative agreements with a Wisconsin company to support the commercial production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), a critical isotope That is involved in more than 40,000 medical procedures in the United States every day, including diagnosing heart disease and cancer. The agreements with NorthStar Medical Technologies, LLC of Beloit, Wisconsin, will enable reliable delivery of Mo-99 without the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU), which raises nuclear non-proliferation concerns.

“Creating domestic supplies for a whole range of products, including this critical medical isotope, is good for our national security and good for job creation here at home,” said Energy Minister Jennifer M. Granholm. “This agreement shows how NNSA – with the support of Congress and US industry – is leveraging science and innovative partnerships to keep our country safe.”

“By combining NNSA’s expertise in nuclear non-proliferation with innovative US manufacturing, Americans will benefit from the health applications of radioisotopes while minimizing nuclear risks and setting a global example,” said NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby.

In the past, US medical facilities obtained Mo-99 from foreign sources. These sources traditionally produced Mo-99 using HEU, which if stolen or diverted could be used in a nuclear weapon.

In 2018, NorthStar became the first U.S. company in nearly 30 years to produce Mo-99 domestically, using a technology that involved irradiating naturally occurring Mo-98 instead of irradiating HEU in a nuclear reactor. The new collaboration agreements will provide $ 16.3 million to expand NorthStar’s Mo-99 reactor-based production technology and $ 20.7 million to support a second NorthStar project to manufacture Mo-99 using electron beam accelerators. NorthStar must provide an equal amount of matching funds for both agreements.

The awards are the first of four agreements issued as part of the NNSA’s recent funding opportunity announcement. They are part of the larger NNSA non-proliferation program. In 2012, Congress directed the NNSA to establish a program to help establish commercial domestic production of Mo-99 without the use of HEU. The NNSA implements this requirement through its Mo-99 program, administered by the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, which works globally to prevent state and non-state actors from developing nuclear weapons or weapons-grade nuclear or radiological material, equipment, technology and Expertise. The Mo-99 program has worked with U.S. industrial partners, entered into agreements to share the cost of developing Mo-99 production methods, and provided funds to the DOE’s National Laboratories for research in support of these efforts.

In July 2020, NNSA announced it would provide funding to the industry to begin production on a commercial scale by the end of 2023. After an independent evaluation of the applicants, NNSA selected NorthStar and two other companies in March 2021 to negotiate the award of cooperation agreements. These awards represent the first signed agreements; Negotiations with the other two companies are ongoing.

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

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