The National Research Universal (NRU) reactor ceased the routine production of the key medical isotope, molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), in October 2016. This is consistent with the Government of Canada’s strategy, which was announced in 2010. Phasing out production over six years has allowed producers around the world to adjust accordingly.
The global outlook for medical isotopes has improved over recent years. The latest projections from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) indicate that the global supply of Mo-99 is expected to be sufficient to meet global demand over the coming years. This includes sufficient normal and ‘buffer’ supply to address unexpected shortages, even without the NRU.
To further ensure the security of supply, in early 2015, the Government of Canada asked AECL to retain the capacity to produce Mo-99 between October 2016 and March 2018 in case of a significant shortage which could not be mitigated by other means.
During this period, the NRU continues to be fully operational. It will be shut down in March 2018. While it is an important piece of Canada’s nuclear science infrastructure, its operating costs have increased significantly over the years and it is reaching the end of its operating life.
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories has exciting plans for the future of nuclear science at the Chalk River Laboratories that include new infrastructure to enable the laboratories to grow and continue to be a significant part of Canada’s science efforts.