Seeking to address a growing demand for the domestic and global supply of cobalt-60, a radioisotope used for treating cancer and other biomedical applications, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Exelon Generation Company have agreed to a landmark deal to deploy GEH’s isotope generation technology.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a license amendment permitting the use of GEH’s technology at Exelon Nuclear’s Clinton Power Station, a single-unit, boiling water reactor plant in Dewitt County, Ill. Installation of GEH technology for the pilot project will occur during Clinton’s current planned maintenance and refueling outage.
The collaborative venture comes at a time of heightened concerns about the domestic availability of radioisotopes. The American Nuclear Society has noted an urgent need for a reliable, domestic source of radioisotopes to sustain the nation’s growing healthcare needs. While the United States’ national laboratories produce a small amount of cobalt-60, today there is no large-scale, commercial, domestic production source.
Cobalt-60 is used as a radiation source in cancer therapy. The International Irradiation Association estimates that 15 million cancer treatments are carried out using cobalt-60 each year in hospitals and clinics in over 80 countries. More than 500,000 brain cancer treatments have been performed using cobalt-60.
“Without key isotopes like cobalt-60, potentially life-threatening diseases could go untreated,” said Dr. Robert Atcher, former president of the Society of Nuclear Medicine. “Developing a U.S. domestic supply of isotopes capable of meeting demands is imperative to the well-being of the U.S. population. It is exciting to see companies like GEH and Exelon leveraging one another's expertise to develop and bring technologically advanced, innovative solutions to the medical isotope community.”
“We view this as an opportunity for Exelon to support an important medical technology that saves people’s lives,” said Charles Pardee, Exelon Nuclear president and chief nuclear officer.
In addition to cancer treatment, cobalt-60 is used to preserve food, decontaminate packaging materials, sanitize cosmetics and purify pharmaceuticals. More than 40 percent of U.S.-manufactured medical devices, including syringes and bandages, are cleaned and/or sterilized using cobalt-60.
Using Exelon’s existing power-generating reactors eliminates the need and costs associated with building new research reactors, thus offering additional significant economic and environmental benefits to the nuclear and medical industries, said Kevin Walsh, CEO of Global Nuclear Fuel and senior vice president of GEH Nuclear Fuel Cycle.
“We are pleased to work with Exelon to create a more stable, global supply of cobalt-60, which has been used to help treat hundreds of thousands of patients for cancer and other medical conditions,” Walsh said.
GEH has more than five decades of experience working with radioisotopes for medical and industrial applications. The new agreement with Exelon builds on GEH and GNF’s leadership and innovation in the nuclear industry.
GEH will continue to drive research and development efforts to explore isotope generation opportunities to potentially supply additional important medical isotopes to meet U.S. and global demands.
About GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy
Based in Wilmington, N.C., GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is a world-leading provider of advanced reactors and nuclear services. Established in June 2007, GEH is a global nuclear alliance created by GE and Hitachi to serve the global nuclear industry. The nuclear alliance executes a single, strategic vision to create a broader portfolio of solutions, expanding its capabilities for new reactor and service opportunities. The alliance offers customers around the world the technological leadership required to effectively enhance reactor performance, power output and safety.
About Global Nuclear Fuel
Global Nuclear Fuel, a joint venture of GE, Hitachi and Toshiba is a leading supplier of BWR fuel throughout the world and continues to work with customers to provide design and innovations relative to uranium and MOX fuel. Global Nuclear Fuel manages Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas, LLC in Wilmington, N.C. and Global Nuclear Fuel–Japan Co. Ltd. in Kurihama, Japan. Global Nuclear Fuel also manages GNF ENUSA Nuclear Fuel S.A., a European nuclear fuel marketing company jointly owned with ENUSA Industrias Avanzadas S.A. of Spain.
Howard Masto, Masto Public Relations
P: +1 518 786 6488
Tom Murnane, Masto Public Relations
P: +1 518 786 6488
Masto Public Relations
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