U.S. administration announces steps to encourage production of Mo-99 without HEU

The U.S. administration announced a number of measures designed to encourage reliable supplies of molybdenum-99 produced without highly enriched uranium. A fact sheet released by the White House on June 7, 2012 lists the following actions to be taken by the United States:

  • Calling upon the Mo-99 industry to voluntarily establish a unique product code or similar identifying markers for Mo-99-based radiopharmaceutical products that are produced without the use of HEU;
  • Preferentially procuring, through certain U.S. government entities, Mo-99-based products produced without the use of HEU, whenever they are available, and in a manner consistent with U.S. obligations under international trade agreements;
  • Examining potential health-insurance payment options that might promote a sustainable non-HEU supply of Mo-99;
  • Taking steps to further reduce exports of HEU that will be used for medical isotope production when sufficient supplies of non-HEU-produced Mo-99 are available to the global marketplace;
  • Continuing to encourage domestic commercial entities in their efforts to produce Mo-99 without HEU during the transition of the Mo-99 industry to full-cost-recovery, and directing those resources to the projects with the greatest demonstrated progress; and
  • Continuing to provide support to international producers to assist in the conversion of Mo-99 production facilities from HEU to LEU.

These measures, however, do not include the so called "preferential procurement" that would require the United States to procure the non-HEU-based versions of medical isotopes as soon as possible. In January 2012 a group of U.S. experts urged the U.S. Congress to include this principle in the legislation (see the text of the letter published by the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project of the University of Texas at Austin).