Policy Consideration 5
National dialog among NIH, NIST, university and DoE laboratories is needed to better control the supply of the molybdenum-99 isotope.
Illustrative of an issue related to policy is the need in the US medical community for a reliable source of the isotope, molybdenum-99, that is used to produce the short half-life technetium-99m, which in turn is widely used in diagnostic procedures. The metrology for these isotopes is well known, and protocols for their use have been established, but the critical issue at this time is the need for a sustained, domestic source of supply for molybdenum-99. With the shutdown of some dated nuclear reactors in Canada, molybdenum-99, which was made as an adjunct, has now a serious supply issue affecting the medical community. As an alternative to using nuclear reactors to produce this isotope, an electrically sourced accelerator could be used. There are over 100 commercial cyclotrons which routinely provide the short-lived isotopes that are needed in nuclear medicine and for medical diagnostics. NIH itself has such cyclotron facilities. In order to overcome potential barriers between users and their source of supply, the oversight for the manufacture of molybdenum-99 could be placed within the charge of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but this may create an unfunded Federal mandate that would not be sustainable. Molybdenum-99 is needed by the medical community, NIH routinely deals with the medical community and NIH has developed a system for expediting the deployment of proven and promising medical technologies through its fast-track translational medical center. Thus, high level discussion to properly find a sustainable solution will help support the medical community and commercial needs and not continue to retard economic growth and scientific advancement.