Current Status on Global Nuclear Medical (NM) Isotope Shortage

Hello all,

You may remember from the Background Guide a paragraph or two about the nuclear medicine crisis that involved failing/repairment of nuclear reactors that were largely responsible for the global supply of Technetium-99.

Chalk River Reactor: Ontario, Canada

Technetium-99 is a decayed version of radioactive material molybdenum (a.k.a. Mo-99). It is a medical isotope that can pinpoint to which specific organ in a body contains cancerous cells, or are afflicted with diseases. Think of it as a “nuclear magic bullet” that swims through your body and lands exactly on any suspicious cells. It has been long used in diagnosing cancer, cardiovascular, and thyroid diseases, and can provide numerous other analytical data for the doctors (e.g. studying brain and kidney functions, looking at how a certain disease is affecting other parts of the body). One thing interesting to note is that it is hard to stockpile this TC-99 (and maybe attempt to combat the supply shortage)  because TC-99 breaks down in merely SIX HOURS. But on the other hand that is good, because you don’t want a radioactive staying in your body any longer than is necessary…

Tc-99 in Action: Skeletal scintigraphy of a patient after an injection of technetium 99-m methylene diphosphonate:Blackened spots indicate troubled areas that Tech-99 found

According to experts, this shortage is expected to cause an acute supply shortage of TC-99 from March 2010, which is currently approximated at 40,000 doses a day in the U.S. alone.

Since May 2009, Chalk River reactor (Ontario, Canada) and the Petten reactor (the Netherlands) have closed down for maintenance (and won’t open for at least six months), causing an immediate and large-scale shortage to the global supply of these isotopes. By August 2009, the Society of Nuclear Medicine has surveyed more than 700 U.S. hospitals and found that at about 80% (non-emergency) of the patients have delayed procedures, without really knowing how long the delay would be.

Recently, however, Poland made a deal with Covidien, a U.S. based pharmaceutical company, to start operating nuclear reactors near Warsaw (capital city of Poland)  to meet the overwhelming demand for tech-99. While this may help ease the consequence of the nuclear reactor failings in 2009, the deal is far from a solution that governments and businesses can immediately implement. To get the isotope from Poland to the Netherlands, where it will be processed into ready-made NM to be used largely in Europe, Covidien needs to go through at least 20 permits from five countries. And even when the NM is transited across to countries of demand, it is a whole new question whether or not (and how long it will take until) the country’s health agency will approve it for safe use.

This may provide “short-term improvements for patients in Europe,” said Dr. Robert Atcher, chairman of the Society’s domestic isotope availability task force. “However, this is only a short-term fix for a long-term problem.”

Indeed, with the Canadian and the Dutch reactors gone, the world has lost approximately two-thirds of the usual supply. To fight the overwhelming demand of the TC-99, even academic institutions such as the University of Missouri (which has one of the most powerful research reactors) are attempting to star their own developments.



Follow Up on Previous Post

For the post on Iran’s Nuclear enrichment, consider these articles:

 It is always a good idea to reference various views and consider different vantage points on a certain subject.


Iran’s New Nuclear Threat?


Is This What Iran Really Wants?

On Sunday, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered enriching of uranium in order to power a medical reactor. The international community, especially the United States, is once again alarmed by what seems to be a move that brings closer to a nuclear-armed Iran.

Nuclear Reactors in Iran

What is alarming is the fact that the amount of uranium he ordered for enrichment far exceeds the levels of what is needed for the country’s regular nuclear fuel production. Ahmadinejad instructed for making “20 percent enriched fuel starting Tuesday”. Considering the fact a weapon-grade nuclear fuel is 90 percent enriched, this is not sufficient to say that Iran is clearly headed for armament, but experts are cautious to judge that this may “put the country in a position to produce highly enriched uranium in a comparably short time.”

At the same time however, some experts are pessimistic as to the prospects for a technically successful nuclear weapons program for Iran in the future. Recently, there have been speculations from various Western intelligence agencies regarding the technical difficulties that Iran has run into at the nuclear plants. Although no specific confirmations have been given as to whether these difficulties were incurred from Iran’s own technical failure, outside sabotage, or other reason, there is reason to believe that the road to nuclear armament is not as easy as Mahmoud’s statement makes it out to be-whether or not he intended so.

This news comes at a time where mixed messages have been spoken on behalf of the country. Some Iranians seemed optimistic in accepting an exchange deal in which the Americans would provide Iran with medical reactor-grade fuel (which is hard to weaponize) for making Iran discarde its current stockpiles of enriched uranium (which may well be weaponized). However, this message has been contradicted by the military conservatives and the opposition leaders in Iran’s domestic political arena.

Will the US enforce stricter sanctions on Iran? Or will this enable Iran to leverage more bargaining power at the negotiations table to reach an exchange deal on more favorable terms?

What does Iran want?  


Director Address

Sang Wook Park
Tufts University
403 West Hall
Medford MA, 02155

Avatar wins Golden Globes and Janmarg Wins the Sustainable Transport Award 2010

Avatar, better in 3D IMAX

Perhaps not fancier, but nonetheless much more practical, than the computer graphics that have made 9 feet-tall smurfs a visually captivating experience, is a series of recent development in the field of bus rapid transport system. On Tuesday January 15, 2010, the Indian city of Ahmedabad received the Sustainable Transport Award 2010 for the implementation of its first BRT system, the “Janmarg,” which literally means “people’s way.”

Janmarg in Ahmedabad, India

Each year the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) gives the award to a city or its officials that has had a sustainable impact on transportation infrastructure, practices, or technologies in efforts to lessen urban pollution, enhance the traveling experience for the commuters and its neighboring social environment. Meanwhile, the city of Johannesburg (South Africa) received an exceptional honorable mention for a successful completion of the first phase implementation of Rea Vaya, Africa’s first bus rapid transit system.

However, the BRT system itself isn’t new. In fact, Colombia, France, Australia, South Korea, Brazil, and many other countries boast of their own BRT systems with various perks and sleek designs. Then what makes the Janmarg experience so special?

  • Dedicated lanes, road geometry (e.g. “split flyovers”) to accommodate new traffic patterns that give priority to the BRT buses and non-motorized vehicles
  • Digital real-time bus arrival and departure information displays at each station
  • High-quality, low-emitting Euro III diesel fuel
  • Excellent pavement quality and structure
  • Centralized, digitalized payment system
  • Easy access for the pedestrians and cyclists to the station
  • The number of total passengers in the first two months of operation (Oct~ Dec 2009): 1,252,402, which is a staggering 33% increase from its first month number of roughly 500,000.
  • Disabled-friendly facilities
  • Maintaining a high-frequency rate (at about 5 minutes of wait between buses)

And above all, what is truly amazing is maintaining a system at a consistently low fare, making it accessible to all. Ahmedabad also plans to integrate Janmarg with other plans, such as the implementation of car-free days, to make Ahmedabad a household name for sustainable urban transportation.

Johannesburg also celebrates a fast-developing BRT system which so far (Phase 1A) involves:

  • 27 stations

    Rea Vaya station in Joburg, South Africa

  • 70,000 passengers per day
  • 25 km road network
  • 143 buses running

What is exciting is not only the amount of spotlight that the BRT system received overall, but the fact that this is has been the only year in the award’s history in which all of its nominees were cities in developing countries. This goes on to show that the most efficient advances in technologies and strategies for development are not necessarily limited to wealthier nations.

“This year’s Sustainable Transport Award nominees demonstrate the
relevance of the developing world in the fight against climate change
while improving citizen’s quality of life and enhancing their
international competitiveness… Cities have the power to significantly reduce carbon emissions by actively seeking ways to improve transport.”

-Walter Hook, Executive Director of the ITDP.

It is indeed a rewarding and an exciting moment for all of us in CSTD to see the very words on our research papers translate into real situations and developments in the world.

Once again, congratulations to Janmarg and Joburg!


Websites worth checking out on the Janmarg:


contains useful statistics, survey responses regarding the first two months of commercial operation of Janmarg


a handy checklist of the current and future features of the Janmarg


Ways in which the Janmarg can improve

Attention: Delegates of Countries in Africa and the Middle East

Hello delegates,

I’ve received a few emails over the course of the past month from delegates who were eager, but were not able to find much information that indicated any relevance of their countries to our two topics. I’ve found a great article that summarizes the current status of nuclear energy development of countries in Africa and the Middle East. (Click here for the article) or copy and paste the link below:


From MIT with love: an Interesting Video on Automobile Tech and Developing Countries

Hello delegates,

Hope you all had a great break, but now we are back on the road with more NHSMUN!

I don’t want to bombard the first days back to school with any lengthy reads, so here is a nice 1 hr (divided into 2 short 30 minute parts) video on Automobiles in developing countries and technologies for the aging population of drivers (especially in the US). This video has been used in my initial stages of compiling research for the topic and has been of great help in grasping a good insight into the specific problems that developing countries face in instituting a better urban transportation system. In addition, the later segment of the video deals specifically with the phenomenon of aging drivers and technologies to combat the possible dangers.

The video is split in half by a nice 30 second break, so feel free to watch either one if time does not permit.

Click Here for the video.