Technetium (Tc-99) is the major radioisotope being used in the field of medical research and nuclear medicine. It measures approximately 90% of the radioisotopes used in nuclear medicine. Molybdenum and its decay product Technetium (Tc-99m) have been in service of the medical diagnostic industry (nuclear medicine) for a long time. These are produced through irradiation of Uranium targets in reactors. But, in the recent times there has been a shortage in the Molybdenum (Mo-99) which has become a matter of concern for the medical industry (nuclear medicine) as Technetium is an important constituent for the diagnostics industry due to its huge applications in the field of imaging. Around 30 million procedures are performed on a yearly basis using the Technetium (Tc-99). So it is highly probable that the medical imaging industry will get paralleled without there is a proper supply of Technetium (Tc-99). With the major nuclear reactors in Canada, Netherlands, South Africa, France, Australia and a few others are on the verge of extinction, it has become imperative to find a proper long term solution for the proper healthy supply ofTechnetium (Tc-99m).
In wake of this major concerns, Saudi Arabia one of the richest countries in the world with huge resources at bay is planning to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 at a cost of $ 80 billion with the first reactor on line in 2022. This can act as a major source of Molybdenum (Mo-99) and can be a driving factor for the nuclear medicine industry. Developed economies can get into agreements with the GCC and ensure their proper supply of Molybdenum. This will be helpful for those in the large scale industry as they will have capital at disposal. Those in the small scale sectors might find it difficult to get the resources on a constant basis due to economic constraints.
This has led to a scenario where the medical industry and researchers are looking into permanent solutions where Molybdenum can be produced without nuclear reactors so as to avoid the issues of radioactive spills and the reactor being on the verge of getting closed due to complete decay of the radioactive substance. The other solution to this issue is the usage of other radioisotopes other than the likes of Molybdenum and Technetium. Potential radioisotopes are currently being used in the nuclear imaging industry as appropriate alternative for Technetium (Tc-99). Those which are currently being used include the likes of Chromium-51, Iodine-131, Iridium-192, Yttrium-90, Lead-212 and a few others. Usage of the isotopes are increasing on daily basis. In the wake of this scenario, Lantheus Medical Imaging, a big player in the nuclear medicine field has formed an agreement with Institute of Radioelements to ensure future supply of xenon-133. This shows the promise and applications of other radioisotopes in the nuclear medicine industry.
Another recent technological advancement in nuclear medicine is the invention of the cyclotron reactors which can produce radioisotopes for those in the small scale sector. Although the market for nuclear reactor based radioisotopes is more than 80%, the market for cyclotron based isotopes is on the rise.
Adoption rates are on the rise relating to the use of cyclotron based reactors. Recently, a research team based in Vancouver, Canada has almost quadrupled the rate of production of medical radioisotopes using a cyclotron. NorthStar Medical Technologies has also come into a definitive agreement with Triad Isotopes to produce Non-Uranium based Molybdenum (Mo-99) with their RadioGenix isotope separation to the market. This will assist in the goals of the National Nuclear Security Administration's Global Threat Reduction Initiative to diminish and safeguard possible nuclear and radiological material located at civil locations globally, and to diminish the usage of HEU in civil applications.
All the above factors point out to the growth potential of nuclear medicine globally and the importance they hold in the medical industry.