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The Australian government has officially outlined plans for a new nuclear medicine manufacturing facility at ANSTO’s Lucas Heights campus, replacing an existing facility that is now reaching the end of its operating life. The new facility is expected to be completed by the early to mid-2030s.

Minister Ed Husic set out the government's plans during a visit to Lucas Heights on 26 September (image: ANSTO)

Ed Husic, Minister for Industry and Science, said the new nuclear medicine manufacturing facility will ensure Australia's nuclear science and technology organisation can increase manufacturing and introduce cutting edge new medicines for decades to come. "ANSTO's nuclear medicine precinct in Sydney will revolutionise the domestic production of nuclear medicines and improve the lives of thousands of Australians," he said. "Our significant investment in infrastructure is underpinned by ANSTO’s strong track record as Australia’s largest producer of nuclear medicines."

ANSTO produces a variety of nuclear medicines, including molybdenum-99, and now supplies around 75-80% of the nuclear medicine used in Australia. The organisation's Lucas Heights Precinct in Sydney is home to three key nuclear medicine facilities: the OPAL reactor, which began operation in 2006; the Mo-99 Manufacturing Facility, which began full-scale operations in 2019; and a third facility where the nuclear medicines undergo their final production stage for dispatch.

This third building - known as Building 23 - was originally built in the 1950s as a research laboratory. Although it has undergone "extensive renovations and modifications" as it transitioned to become a nuclear medicine manufacturing facility, it is now approaching the end of its useful operating life, according to ANSTO.

Acting CEO for ANSTO Andrew Peele said the new Nuclear Medicine Facility will form a more sophisticated nuclear medicine precinct with a seamless manufacturing and distribution chain. "This new purpose-built facility will ensure ANSTO has the flexibility to adapt to evolving manufacturing technologies and meet the changing needs of the radiopharmaceuticals market, particularly as cancer and other illness diagnosis rates continue to grow," he said. "It will ensure ANSTO can meet the increasing demand for nuclear medicines by hospitals and medical clinics while also leveraging ANSTO's radiopharmaceutical research and development and medical industry collaborations."

The government announced in 2021 that AUD30 million (USD12.8 million) would be spent on the facility's design. The design and implementation of the new facility will be confirmed by an independent review, in line with best practice for major public sector capital works, Husic said. It will also be subject to a tender process.

The new facility is expected to be completed by the early to mid-2030s.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Friday, 06 October 2023
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