National Nuclear Security Administration: NNSA partner NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes completes construction and equipment installation for new molybdenum-99 production facility

Contact: NNSA Public Affairs, (202) 586-7371 or [email protected]

Once approved by regulators, the new facility will significantly increase domestic production capability for isotope used to fight heart disease and cancer

WASHINGTON – NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes has completed construction and all equipment installation at its new facility in Beloit, Wisconsin, to produce the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99 without the use of highly enriched uranium. The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration provided financial and technical support for this project. The completion of the facility will increase production of a vital medical radioisotope while reducing global nuclear proliferation risks.

Mo-99 is an isotope used in over 40,000 medical diagnostic procedures in the United States each day. For decades, the United States had no capability to produce Mo-99 domestically and relied entirely on imported material, most of which was previously produced using proliferation-sensitive HEU.

To reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation and terrorism, NNSA supports U.S. companies working to establish domestic production of Mo-99 without the use of HEU. In parallel, NNSA also works with international producers to help them convert their production processes to use low enriched uranium, a non-weapons-usable material, instead of HEU.

In 2018, NorthStar became the first U.S. company in nearly 30 years to produce  non-HEU Mo-99 domestically, by irradiating and processing molybdenum-98 targets at the University of Missouri Research Reactor. NorthStar is currently capable of producing enough Mo-99 to meet approximately 20% of the U.S. demand. Once NorthStar’s newly completed facility is licensed, NorthStar will have a combined production capability to meet nearly 40% of U.S. demand for Mo-99, a significant increase from current levels. NorthStar expects to complete start-up and regulatory submissions before the end of 2023.

At the new production facility, NorthStar will produce Mo-99 through a new method, based on irradiation of molybdenum-100 targets using electron accelerators. This will be the first facility in the world to produce commercial-scale Mo-99 using this technology. The facility also includes new, high-capacity equipment for processing and packaging Mo-99 for distribution to radiopharmacies and hospitals.

Since 2012, NNSA has competitively awarded $245 million in cost-shared cooperative agreements to U.S. companies, including $109 million to NorthStar. NNSA also supports U.S. companies through non-proprietary technical support from the Department of Energy’s national laboratories, by leasing low enriched uranium for Mo-99 production, and by establishing take-back contracts for spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste resulting from medical isotope production without another disposal path.