The source material to produce xenon-133 was available. However, an efficient production process that would meet all the legal requirements and the quality assurance of the end product had yet to be developed.
NRG and Curium joined forces to explore the possibilities in setting up a flawless production route to extract xenon-133 from the waste gasses of the existing molybdenum production process in Petten. Curium's molybdenum production process takes place in NRG facilities, under NRG's Nuclear Energy Act permit. This was the starting point of a fruitful collaboration.
A gas tight containment, a so called glovebox, had to be added to the installation. This glovebox was specifically designed and constructed for this application, equipped with a specific and custom-built filtering system. This enabled the extraction of xenon-133 from the gas stream originating from the molybdenum production process.
After significant R&D efforts, it was possible to safely capture radioactive xenon gas from the molybdenum process and to make the gas available with the required purity and specifications. An extra advantage of Curium’s xenon-133 gas is that it is LEU based, in line with the commitment that both the Dutch government and Curium have confirmed at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit to phase out High Enriched Uranium based medical isotopes.
The medical isotope xenon-133 is adopted for diagnostic inhalation studies for the evaluation of pulmonary function, for imaging of the lungs and can also be applied to monitor cerebral blood flow. Xe-133 is commonly used in the United States for these specific diagnoses.
Hospitals in the United States have been able to order xenon-133 from May 2018. The Curium facility in the Netherlands sends the product to their sister company Curium in the USA, where the purified bulk is converted to the finished product and patient doses.
In order to be able to supply this new product, a change to the Nuclear Energy Act permit was necessary. This new permit was approved by the ANVS, the Dutch Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection. As a result, production can take place in line with all safety requirements and regulations.
“We are pleased to provide our customers with a LEU based choice when selecting xenon-133 gas to help diagnose patient disease for approved indications,” said Curium CEO North America, Dan Brague.