There currently is a worldwide shortage of medical isotopes, due to lower available reactor capacity because of scheduled maintenance and temporary outages of one of the European reactors. The High Flux Reactor (HFR) in Petten therefore started up a day early after maintenance to increase the availability of medical isotopes.
"When we heard about the shortages of medical isotopes, we made every effort to shorten our planned maintenance shutdown in a safe and responsible manner. The production chain of medical isotopes is fragile, and we are very aware of that"; said Jelmer Offerein, operational director of NRG|PALLAS.
"We are pleased that the HFR was able to start up earlier in order to respond to the dire situation that now exists in the production of medical isotopes. Fortunately, this allows us to resume our diagnostic procedures and treatments a little earlier than expected. Many patients have been waiting weeks for their scans or treatments," said Andor Glaudemans, president of Dutch Society for Nuclear Medicine (NVNG).
The HFR has about 260 production days per year and has regular short maintenance shutdowns, and twice a year a longer shutdown. To maximize the security of supply of medical isotopes, capacity availability is coordinated with other reactors worldwide. A prolonged unplanned reactor outage often leads to problems in the supply of medical isotopes, which is felt by hospitals and patients. In these situations, other reactors are asked to step in, where possible. NRG|PALLAS succeeded in bringing forward the scheduled startup by 24 hours. With this early start-up, NRG|PALLAS is contributing maximally to its goal of providing medical isotopes for 30,000 patients per day.
In Europe, four reactors are responsible for the vast majority of medical isotope production. The High Flux Reactor in Petten, the BR2 reactor in Belgium, the LVR15 in the Czech Republic and the Maria reactor in Poland. The chain is vulnerable because little spare capacity is available, and said reactors require increasing maintenance. Unplanned downtime of one of the reactors is therefore an increasing risk. Therefore, renewal in the chain is necessary. The arrival of the new PALLAS-reactor proves to be more necessary than ever and will contribute to strengthening the security of supply of nuclear medicine for health care.
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