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Proposed plant will ‘futureproof’ country’s ability to produce life-saving radioisotopes

Industry and science minister Ed Hisic outlined plans for a new nuclear medicine facility during a visit to Ansto. Courtesy Ansto.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (Ansto) has welcomed what it called a “significant” federal government funding allocation to safeguard the production of life-saving nuclear medicines in Australia by building a new facility at Lucas Heights in Sydney.

During a visit to Lucas Heights, industry and science minister Ed Hisic outlined plans for a new nuclear medicine facility to replace the existing ageing nuclear medicine processing and distribution facility, which was initially constructed in 1959 as a research laboratory.

Neither Ansto or the government gave a figure for the planned investment, although the government announced in 2021 that AUD30m (€18m, $12.8m) would be spent on the facility’s design.

Hisic said the new facility – expected to be completed by the mid-2030s – will be sophisticated and purpose-built to produce and distribute nuclear medicine products to hospitals and medical clinics right around Australia.

Ansto’s acting chief executive officer Prof. Andrew Peele said the funding would “futureproof” Australia’s sovereign capabilities for domestic nuclear medicine manufacturing.

He said the new facility will form a more sophisticated nuclear medicine precinct to enable a seamless manufacturing and distribution chain.

Each week Ansto produces nuclear medicines to enable between 10,000-12,000 procedures at Australian hospitals and medical clinics.

Since the late 1970s, Ansto has produced a variety of nuclear medicines and now supplies around 75-80% of the nuclear medicine used in Australia.

This includes the production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), which is dispatched into Ansto’s Gentech generators, where it decays to become technetium-99 (Tc-99m), the most widely-used radioisotope in nuclear medicine.

Ansto’s Lucas Heights campus is home to a nuclear medicine precinct of three key facilities: the Opal multipurpose research reactor, the Mo-99 manufacturing facility and the nuclear medicine processing and distribution facility.

Date: Saturday, 07 October 2023
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