Halt to Petten’s radioisotope production leaves patients waiting

4th September 2008, Comments 0 comments

The nuclear reactor in northern Holland which produces 60 percent of Europe’s medical radioisotopes is temporarily closed, following reports of gas bubbles leak.

4 September 2008

PETTEN -- Managers of the nuclear reactor in Petten, a Dutch province in northern Holland, have been summoned to a meeting at the Health Ministry to discuss concerns about a shortage of medical radioisotopes.

The nuclear reactor in Petten which produces radioisotopes was closed for routine maintenance in August after it was reported that gas bubbles were escaping into the cooling system.

The reactor's operator, the Nuclear Research & Consultancy Group, had said there is no danger to the public. It is obliged to delay the re-opening of the nuclear facility while it conducts investigations about the leak. The reactor remains closed.

Radioisotopes such as molybdenum-99 and technetium-99m are used for both diagnostic testing and the treatment of some forms of cancer. The nuclear reactor in Petten produces a third of the world's medical radioisotopes, and 60 percent of those used in Europe.

As halted production at the reactor continues, some patients in the Netherlands will need to have their treatment delayed. Other reactors in Canada, France and South Africa do not have the capacity to make up the shortfall.

Because of the limited sources of world supply, similar radioisotope shortages have arisen in the past when the reactor in Petten was temporarily closed in 2002. Back then, concerns about the safety culture at the reactor led to a temporary closure and an investigation headed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The environmental organisation Greenpeace would like to see the permanent closure of the reactor, and a switch to alternative radioisotope production methods using particle accelerators.

[Radio Netherlands / Expatica]

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