Technetium-99m (Tc-99m) is used in hospitals around the world to diagnose a variety of heart, lung and musculoskeletal conditions, as well as cancers.
It is the most common nuclear medicine, with global demand estimated to be up to 40 million doses a year, produced by experts with a small network of 11* nuclear reactors worldwide.
ANSTO produces the parent isotope, Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), places it in a transport and storage device called a Generator and sends it to hospitals and medical centres in Australiaand internationally. Mo-99 decays into Tc-99m inside the shielded generator, and is then extracted as needed.
Some 10,000 doses are produced per week for Australian patients. Generators are also sent to hospitals and nuclear medicine practices in New Zealand and Asia. ANSTO also produces many thousand more doses of Molybdenum-99 each week for international patients. This is sent as bulk export Mo-99.
This is advanced manufacturing, and if an unforeseen issue impacts supply, the national and international medical community works together to minimise the impact and shortfall.
On Friday 22 June, ANSTO temporarily suspended production of Generators, after a mechanical fault was identified with a piece of equipment called a transfer conveyer.
Engineers started working to rectify the mechanical fault over the weekend, and remain on site, and will fix it as soon as possible.
ANSTO is working with international partners to minimise disruptions. We sent bulk Mo-99 to a partner in the United States, and are expecting to receive generators back by Saturday. The impact this mechanical fault will have on the Australian Nuclear Medicine community will depend on matters including their existing stock levels.
“Nuclear medicine production is one of the most complex production processes in Australia today,” a spokesperson for ANSTO said.
“Just like with any other production process, there are occasional mechanical faults, and if those happen we work closely with our international partners to minimise impacts. “While there were no safety risks or issues associated with this mechanical fault, nonetheless it is causing some inconvenience to our customers.
“On many occasions, ANSTO has been the one to step up and provide for the international market when supply provisions have gone down overseas.
“It’s now our turn to put up our hand for help, and we have been liaising with our international partners to secure as much supply as possible, and limit impact on our customers.
“We are pleased to advise ANSTO has been able to secure supply of Technetium-99m (Tc-99m) Generators from one of our international partners. "We expect a supply of generators will be available from early next week, and have apologised to our customers about the mechanical fault.” *According to the World Nuclear Association
Media contact: Phil McCall 0438 619 987