SHINE Technologies has signed contracts with the Department of Energy related to obtaining low-enriched uranium for production of a widely used medical imaging radioisotope.
According to a release from the Janesville company, these contracts are the first signed under the federal agency’s Uranium Lease and Take-back Program. This program was created under the American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2012 to provide U.S. medical isotope producers with uranium.
Corey Hinderstein, deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation with the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, says these contracts represent “a crucial step toward medical isotope autonomy for the United States.”
SHINE says it is “steadily progressing” toward production of molybdenum-99 at its Janesville facility. Mo-99 is a radioisotope used to create technetium-99m, which is used in more than 40,000 medical diagnostic procedures each day in the United States.
“Once SHINE begins production, our country will be that much closer to creating a reliable and sufficient supply of these life-saving materials right here at home, while also increasing nuclear security by reducing the use of highly enriched uranium,” Hinderstein said in a statement.
While the company’s contract with the NNSA provides SHINE with uranium, its contract with the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management outlines requirements related to returning resulting radioactive waste “without a commercial disposition path” following Mo-99 production.
The second contract is meant to satisfy a requirement of the 2012 isotope production law that DOE establish “take-back contracts” for radioactive waste or spent nuclear fuel resulting from medical isotope production. But the company says in the release that “there is no spent fuel or radioactive waste involved in these contracts.”
The NNSA previously announced in October that SHINE would be issued a $35 million cooperative agreement to support the company’s efforts to begin commercial production of Mo-99 by the end of 2023. Medical facilities in the country have historically gotten their Mo-99 from entities outside the United States that produced it using highly-enriched uranium, which could be used in a nuclear weapon “if stolen or diverted,” DOE says.
SHINE says it won’t need to use highly enriched uranium in its production facility, which company CEO Greg Piefer calls “a huge win for both patient access to essential medical diagnostic procedures, and for nuclear security.”