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Radioisotope maker moves $4.6 million closer to start

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JAMES P. LEUTE
November 3, 2011
— A high-tech producer of medical isotopes is one step closer to breaking Rock County ground for a $194 million facility expected to create more than 150 jobs by 2016.

The National Nuclear Security Administration on Tuesday announced an award of $4.6 million to NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes.


The award will help the company develop site and architectural plans for a facility in Beloit, as well as allow it to start licensing and permitting activities.


NorthStar and the federal government are funding the award equally.


“This award allows us to do everything but construct the facility,” said Glenn Isensee of NorthStar.


Actual construction is expected to start next year with production beginning in 2013.


NorthStar’s technology produces a commercially reliable supply of molybdenum-99. Mo-99, as it is called, decays to produce technetium-99m, which is used in approximately 50,000 nuclear medicine procedures each day in the United States.


Technetium-99m is on a Food and Drug Administration drug shortage list and is used for diagnostic procedures of the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, spleen, bones and blood flow.


NorthStar’s technology uses naturally occurring molybdenum and avoids any use of uranium. By eliminating the use of uranium as the source material, NorthStar will significantly reduce radioactive waste by-products.


The United States does not have a domestic production capability for Mo-99 and must import 100 percent of its supply from foreign producers, most of whom use highly enriched uranium in their production processes.


This week’s award is the second in a commitment that could reach $25 million, Isensee said. So far, NorthStar has received $5.6 million, and the next award likely will be targeted toward construction of the facility, he said.


“NorthStar is pleased to have the National Nuclear Security Administration recognize the potential of NorthStar’s technologies to solve the molybdenum-99 shortages that for the past four years have intermittently created shortages that limited some diagnostic testing and may continue to do so,” said George P. Messina, NorthStar’s president.


In addition to NorthStar, NNSA has partnered with three other domestic companies.


“NNSA is committed to supporting a diverse set of technologies for the establishment of a reliable supply of molybdenum-99 produced here in the United States without the use of highly enriched uranium,” said Anne Harrington, deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.


“We are committed to supporting the technical advancement of commercial partners to meet the needs of the U.S. medical community while simultaneously advancing nonproliferation objectives and the minimization of civilian use of HEU worldwide.”



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