Isotek Systems, TerraPower and the US Department of Energy (DOE) have signed a public-private partnership agreement to use material recovered from a legacy uranium-233 (U-233) inventory to increase the supply of the medical radioisotope actinium-225 (Ac-225).

Isotek is responsible for the removal of the inventory of U-233 currently stored at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a DOE contractor under Atkins Nuclear Secured. Under the new agreement, which was signed at a ceremony on 22 November, Isotek will extract thorium-229 (Th-229) from the U-233, which TerraPower will then use for the production of Ac-225. This arrangement will give TerraPower the capacity to produce 100 times more cancer treatment doses per year of Ac-225 than the 4000 doses currently available, the partners said. Ac-225, a short-lived alpha-emitting isotope that can be used in a form of treatment known as targeted alpha therapy, has previously been described as one of the world's rarest medical radioisotopes.

Jay Mullis, manager of DOE's Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, said the partnership was a "success" for all involved. "Through Isotek's innovative approach, we are able to accelerate one of our highest priority projects, spend less taxpayer dollars to complete the project, and provide material that will greatly benefit the public in the future," he said.

Isotek is using the proceeds from the sale of the Th-229 to privately fund portions of the Uranium-233 Disposition Project. Additionally, the new approach will allow downblending operations to begin a year earlier than planned, accelerating the overall project schedule. As a result, the US taxpayer will save about USD90 million per year, the partners said.

Oak Ridge's uranium-233 inventory is a legacy of Cold War-era operations and its disposition is the DOE Office of Environmental Management's highest priority at the Tennessee site. It is stored in Building 3019, which has been described as the oldest operating nuclear facility in the world. "Completing the Uranium-233 Disposition Project removes a significant risk by eliminating the inventory of highly enriched fissile material stored in a 1940’s-era building at a world-leading scientific research site," the partners said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Tuesday, 26 November 2019
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