SHINE process gets validation
JANESVILLE SHINE Medical Technologies has checked off another item on its to-do list as it works toward a 2016 opening of a medical isotope production plant in Janesville.
SHINE is working toward regulatory approval of a $85 million production plant that will use low-enriched uranium in a series of eight accelerators to produce molybdenum-99, a medical isotope used in more than 30 kinds of diagnostic imaging procedures performed more than 50,000 times each day in the United States.
The Los Alamos National Laboratory recently demonstrated the production and separation of Mo-99 from uranium sulfate solution using a separation flow sheet.
Greg Piefer, SHINE's founder and chief executive officer, said the demonstration in New Mexico represents validation of SHINE's technology because it used both a low-enriched uranium solution and the process SHINE will use in its Janesville operation.
The demonstration found that SHINE's separation process recovered more than 97 percent of the Mo-99 produced.
Piefer said the result shows that SHINE's system can be used to produce and recover Mo-99 at extremely high efficiency. When combined with other elements of SHINE's proprietary technology, the process will create medical isotopes in a much safer and more environmentally friendly way than is currently possible, while avoiding the use of highly enriched uranium, he said.
"We fully expected the results to be very good, but these were very, very good," Piefer said. "We've known that the front half of the process—our production system—works, but this shows that the back half—pulling the Mo-99 out—works, as well."
Mo-99 is used in more than 40 million medical imaging procedures each year, primarily in stress tests to detect heart disease and bone scans to determine the stage of cancer progression.
Historically, most Mo-99 used in the United States has been produced in Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands and South Africa using highly enriched uranium placed in high-power, nuclear research reactors. Both the Canadian and Dutch reactors are operating beyond their originally licensed life and unscheduled shutdowns of the reactors in 2009 and 2010 caused worldwide shortages of Mo-99, leading to the delay or cancellation of millions of medical procedures.
SHINE plans to produce Mo-99 without a nuclear reactor and without using highly enriched uranium. Its production process will use a particle accelerator and target, generating hundreds of times less waste than current Mo-99 production methods.
The company hopes to fill at least one-half of the U.S. need for Mo-99 by 2016.
Piefer said the facility is expected to create about 150 well-paying jobs, many of which could be filled by students with degrees from nearby Blackhawk Technical College.
Construction on the Janesville plant across from the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport could start in late 2014 or early 2015.
Piefer said equipment would be installed and tested in early 2016, with production starting in June of that year to meet expected shortages of Mo-99.