Technitium-99m (99mTc), a widely used radioisotope, is used in tens of millions of medical diagnostic procedures annually. However, it is hard to store and must be immediately used upon production due to its short half-life (i.e., 6 h); thus, it is currently produced from 99Mo, which itself is a result of 235U fission. The majority of 99Mo supplies to U.S. patients are currently provided by foreign producers and produced using highly enriched uranium (HEU). In order to minimize the proliferation risks of HEU-based medical isotope production, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration has funded a program to accelerate the development of technologies to produce 99Mo without the use of HEU.
Today, the global supply of 99Mo depends on a limited number of nuclear reactors, and production has been interrupted unexpectedly since 2009 due to the fleet’s advanced age. Alternative options for 99Mo production are discussed in this paper, and one potential option is to obtain 99mTc from molten salt reactors (MSRs). A MSR is a nuclear fission reactor that can operate at or close to atmospheric pressure with liquid fuel, which allows for producing isotopes in a timely manner. In this paper, the past and current production of 99Mo via nuclear reactors is described, and the future of 99Mo production by MSRs is discussed. The behavior and chemical properties of molybdenum in fluoride salts in MSRs and the possible extraction methods are also examined in addition to the limitation of current studies.