An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) paper has looked at an alternative method for producing molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), which could help increase the supply of the key medical isotope.

The paper is based on IAEA-supported research and co-authored by an IAEA expert. As major research reactors supplying Mo-99 are ageing and ceasing production, the alternative method discussed in the paper offers a simplified way to diversify production and help ensure continued Mo-99 supplies for uninterrupted nuclear medicine services, the IAEA said. It involves producing Mo-99 by irradiating natural or enriched molybdenum. The IAEA said it is one of the lesser-used yet viable alternatives to fulfil domestic needs, in particular for countries with research reactor facilities.

This technique, already in use in Chile, India, Kazakhstan, Peru, Russian and Uzbekistan, involves a simpler production process and generates less radioactive waste than the traditional method of producing Mo-99 through fission from uranium. In addition, it can improve the use of research reactors. Several countries, including Jordan, Mexico and Morocco, are considering the technique. The IAEA said the new method shows potential, but experts are still evaluating its efficiency (