Society News Archive

15 November 2013
Supply of Medical Isotopes Has Dangerously Decayed

Alan Perkins, a professor of medical physics at the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, has published the article "Supply of Medical Isotopes Has Dangerously Decayed" on The Conversation website. It is about the dwindling supply of radionuclides for medical and industrial uses.

This is not news to the health physicists who work at hospitals and universities, but may be news to the general public. This had already affected many patients in the United States in recent years when there were shortages in radiopharmaceuticals. Many patients were given alternate radiopharmaceuticals that delivered higher radiation doses in order to obtain medical information, and there was not enough Tc-99m available to provide to all patients. The reactors supplying radiopharmaceuticals have had extended shutdowns and new plants are not being built in time to replace aging reactors. If actions are not taken soon, it may impact the quality of life of the aging baby-boomer generation, who will need nuclear medicine exams and therapies as their health needs increase.

Industrial activities that rely on man-made radionuclides will also be affected. Dr. Perkins states, "The prospect of 'radioinactivity' has been of concern in other fields. The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) has recently expressed concern about the dwindling supply of radioactive sources, especially plutonium-238 for the thermoelectric batteries that power deep space probes."

The Conversation is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public.