Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Shortage of medical isotopes

Global shortage of medical isotopes threatens nuclear medicine services

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 05 September 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1577
  1. Alan Perkins, honorary secretary1,
  2. Andrew Hilson, past president1,
  3. John Hall, treasurer1
  1. 1British Nuclear Medicine Society, Regent House, London SE26 4QD
  1. alan.perkins{at}

    Nuclear medicine departments throughout the world are facing the prospect of a severe shortage of molybdenum-99 over the next few weeks.1 Molybdenum-99, a fission product of uranium-235, is usually delivered to hospitals on a weekly basis in the form of the molybdenum/technetium generator. This is used for the routine production of technetium-99m, the main radionuclide used for over 80% of routine diagnostic nuclear medicine investigations. The result will be a major disruption in the provision of nuclear medicine services in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

    The president of the US Society of Nuclear Medicine, Robert Archer, has described this as a “perfect storm in isotope availability,” in which a series of unrelated events have combined with serious consequences.

    Europe’s three isotope production reactors are all currently shut down. Belgium’s Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) ordered the Fleurus facility to stop production on 26 August after an uncontrolled release of iodine-131 into the atmosphere estimated to be 45 GBq. The High Flux Reactor (HFR) at Petten in the Netherlands will be offline …

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