2017–18 Annual Report - Case study 2 - ANSTO Nuclear Medicine licence to operate

Part 3: Case study 2 - ANSTO Nuclear Medicine licence to operate

April 2018 saw ARPANSA issue a licence to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) to operate the ANSTO Nuclear Medicine Facility (ANM). This is the most significant facility licensing decision made by ARPANSA since the licence to operate ANSTO’s Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) reactor was granted in July 2006.

The ANM Facility is intended for the extraction and purification of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99). Mo-99 is the parent isotope of technetium‑99m, a medical isotope used for diagnostic imaging of cancer tumours. It also assists in the undertaking of organ function studies such as in cardiac and renal imaging.

ARPANSA’s CEO, Dr Carl-Magnus Larsson, issued the licence to operate the ANM Facility on 12 April 2018. The licence authorises ANSTO to commence ‘hot commissioning’ using uranium target plates that have been irradiated in the OPAL reactor. Hot commissioning is essentially a testing phase to ensure that all of the necessary systems work and allows ANSTO to extract Mo‑99 from the irradiated targets to check that the product matches the quality criteria for later routine production.

Moving forward, a number of conditions still need to be fulfilled before a decision can be taken on whether to authorise routine production for domestic and international markets, including a thorough analysis of the results of the commissioning tests.

This is the third licence issued by ARPANSA for the ANM Facility. The first of these licence applications (for siting or site preparation) was received in October 2012 and a licence was issued in October 2013. This was followed by the licence to construct the facility issued
in June 2014. The application from ANSTO to operate the facility was received in April 2017. ARPANSA’s extensive review process involved analysis of the safety and security of the facility, as well as our ongoing assessment of the safety of the OPAL reactor used to produce Mo-99 through nuclear fission. Other key considerations included the facility’s safety features, operational limits and conditions, and radioactive waste management.