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High density uranium fuel and targets for the production of medical radioisotopes


Specific Challenge: A shortage of Molybdenum-99 has occurred mainly as a result of the low availability of research reactor facility and of the extensive replacement of highly enriched uranium fuel by low enriched one to address nuclear proliferation concerns. This has been at the origin of the European Observatory on the Supply of Medical Radioisotopes[1], created in order to organise the availability of this essential radiopharmaceutical product.

Research and innovation should be undertaken to support the replacement of highly enriched uranium fuel and targets by low enriched and high density ones. The issue for the fuel is the sufficient performance and safe operation of the reactor, notably for preserving the fuel elements from meltdown, e.g. in using an appropriate conditioning. The issue for the targets is to achieve a sufficient number of fission reactions that produce Molybdenum-99 and to get a high quality pharmaceutical product.

Scope: This research and innovation will focus on developing new kinds of high density uranium fuel and targets bearing in mind their thermal, mechanical and chemical behaviour and their suitability for use in different research reactors. This will involve inter alia the investigation of heat resistance, preserved microstructure, reduced oxidation and thermal fatigue of high density fuel and targets by appropriate coating. Fuel and target fabrication will be studied in view of testing their properties under thermal stress before and after irradiation. International cooperation could be beneficial in this area.

Impact: The cost effective supply of high density and low enriched uranium fuel and targets will allow the more efficient use of research reactors in Europe for the purpose of energy research and the production of medical radioisotopes like Molybdenum-99. This will contribute to the addressing of key challenges of Horizon 2020 in the sectors of energy and health. The principal impact of this action will be the prevention of future crises in the supply of Molybdenum-99.

Type of action: Research and innovation actions.

Additional information: The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the Euratom of between EUR 4 and 6 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.