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Los Países Bajos comienzan el trabajo sobre el reactor médico nuevo del isótopo

por Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | October 27, 2009
The PALLAS reactor
could be producing
medical isotopes by 2016
A Dutch power company is wrapping up the first phase of a project that could help ensure the world a secure supply of nuclear pharmaceuticals when the High Flux Reactor, which provides much of America's medical isotopes, goes offline in less than a decade.

The Dutch Nuclear Research & Consultancy Group (NRG) has announced that plans for PALLAS, a new nuclear reactor named after Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, are nearing completion.

"There are three parties in the race to obtain the order to make the detailed design, and we currently expect to make a decision on draft design by end of this year," Juliette van der Laan, spokesperson for NRG, tells DOTmed News.

The planned reactor could help ease worries over a growing shortage of molybdenum-99, a radioactive isotope whose daughter isotope, technetium-99, is a contrast material critical to many imaging studies, especially SPECT bone scans.

The aging High Flux Reactor in Petten, Netherlands, also operated by NRG, contributes much of America's supply of nuclear pharmaceuticals now that a 51-year-old reactor in Canada, the U.S.'s previous main supplier, is shut down for repairs until at least next year.

But the High Flux Reactor, in use since the 1960s, is expected to go offline around 2015, although van der Laan says the High Flux Reactor will stay on until PALLAS is fully operational.

PALLAS, which needs approval from the Dutch and local governments before construction can even begin, will probably not be ready for commercial production until late 2016, van der Laan says.

A location has yet to be found for the project, though the Dutch province of Zeeland, the home of a nuclear power plant and a nuclear waste storage facility, and the province of Noord-Holland, where Petten is located, are both likely candidates, and have pledged around 40 million euros for the project, according to van der Laan.

While the High Flux Reactor runs at 45 megawatts, PALLAS is expected to have a flexible power range of between 30 and 80 megawatts. This will allow PALLAS to cut back on waste. "In times of the year when there is a large request for irradiation capacity, we are flexible in creating power and irradiation volume, and in other times of the year when there's less demand, we can operate on lower power," says van der Laan.

In addition to producing medical isotopes, PALLAS will also be a research facility for material and fuel testing for both fission and fusion reactors.

The reactor has a total expected cost of 400 million euros, which will be borne by both the Dutch government and the EU, as well as private companies, such as medical isotope purchasers. Van der Laan expects PALLAS, once finished, to employ around 500 people, but be responsible for the creation of several times that number of jobs through industries and businesses built to service the plant or cater to its employees.

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