The Security of Supply Workgroup brings together the members of AIPES who operate Research Reactors or use their output for medical isotope production purposes. This involves either the production of fission isotopes (e.g. Molybdenum, Iodine, Xenon) by splitting Uranium targets, or the neutron activation of isotopes (e.g. Strontium, Iridium, Samarium, Lutetium) by bombarding stable target materials.
The main goal of this Workgroup is to achieve the best possible coordination of the periods during which the different Reactors are operating, in order to provide adequate global coverage during planned reactor shutdown periods for refuelling and maintenance. This coordination is necessary to ensure production continuity of the mother isotopes and ensure the supply of final Radiopharmaceutical products and Therapy sources to hospitals all year round. The Workgroup also provides a forum for the Research Reactor operators and the Radiopharmaceutical producers to keep each other informed about important developments in the medical isotope market and to discuss issues of common concern. The production of Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) in particularly, is very sensitive to any unplanned unavailability of Reactors. This is because of the extremely high global demand for Mo-99 for the production of Technetium-99m Generators (Tc-99m), Tc-99m being the daughter isotope of Mo-99.
In Nuclear Medicine, around 80% of all diagnostic procedures (around 30 million per year) depend upon Tc-99m. Both Mo-99 and Tc-99m have short half lives; this excludes the possibility of building buffer stocks of these important materials.
Initially, the Workgroup concentrated on European Reactors. But following various recent events which identified that the supply situation was becoming more difficult and in view of the global scope of Mo-99 supply, it became clear that this group had to extend its sphere of activity to include all global reactor operators and distribution organizations: NRU in Canada, SAFARI in South Africa and OPAL in Australia.
In order to maximize the Workgroup’s efficiency, in 2009 the Research Reactor operators became associate members of AIPES. Therefore they are now full participants in the Workgroup meetings and this, combined with the increase in the number of participating Reactors, has contributed to a smoother and more open dialogue.
The Workgroup, assisted by the AIPES Executive Committee, has numerous contacts with European Institutions as well as with individual National Authorities. The Workgroup also cooperates with the NEA group of the OECD and supports the IAEA in global initiatives to solve the present and future Mo-99 supply problems. The Workgroup has also built close working ties with medical associations such as the European Association of Nuclear Medicine (EANM), as well as with parallel industry groups such as CORAR in the USA.
Under normal circumstances, the Workgroup meets three times a year. However, in crisis situations, meetings are more frequent and additional meetings and telephone conferences can be organised at the initiative of individual members or at the request of the Executive Committee or international governmental institutions.
The Security of Supply Workgroup is committed to global coordination of Reactors and Radiopharmaceutical producers of critical medical isotopes to ensure continuity of global supply with a minimum risk of disruption. AIPES is committed to clear communication of supply related issues to the medical community and acts as the central global coordinator and communication channel at times of supply uncertainty.
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