Radioisotopes are used in medicine for the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases, including some of the most important ones, like cancer, cardiovascular and brain diseases. Technetium-99m (Tc-99m) is the most widely used diagnostic radioisotope.
At present the Tc-99m supply for nuclear medicine is dependent on an unsustainably low number of production reactors. Worldwide, only few research reactors currently produce on an industrial scale Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), from which Tc-99m is derived. Aged around 50 years, these reactors are approaching the end of their lifespan, which causes an increasing need for planned maintenance cycles and a growing frequency of unplanned production interruptions. As a result, the global supply of radioisotopes has become more fragile, particularly in recent years.
On 4 November 2009 the European Commission presented its Preliminary Report on the Supply of Radioisotopes for Medical Use and Current Developments in Nuclear Medicine to the Council of the European Union. On the basis of this report the Swedish Presidency of the Council prepared Council Conclusions on the Security of Supply of Radioisotopes for Medical Use, which were adopted on 15 December 2009.
In response to the Council Conclusions, the Directorate-General for Energy hosted a Meeting on the Security of Supply of Medical Radioisotopes in EU Member States held in Luxembourg on 4-5 May 2010. The purpose of the meeting was to provide a forum to exchange information on possible medium-term solutions and on details of the most promising reactor opportunities for securing Mo-99 production in the long term. About 50 participants from 20 Member States attended the meeting, including the main stakeholders (reactor operators, Mo-99 processors and producers of Mo-99/Tc-99m generators), and representatives of international organizations and professional associations (the Nuclear Energy Agency, the Association of Imaging Producers & Equipment Suppliers and the European Association of Nuclear Medicine).