November 22, 2017 / 6:53 PM / 20 days ago

South African Mo-99 plant shut after suspected hydrogen leak

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa’s NTP Radioisotopes, one of the world’s leading producers of Molybdenum-99 used in medical diagnostic imaging, has been ordered to halt production at its Pelindaba facility after a suspected hydrogen leak, it said on Wednesday

Molybdenum-99, or Mo-99, is used in millions of diagnostic tests for cancer, heart disease and other illnesses worldwide.

“The hydrogen leak has the potential to be dangerous but everything is under control,” said spokeswoman Nikelwa Tengimfene.

The shutdown ordered by South Africa’s nuclear regulator would affect production valued at about 3.5 million rand ($253,000) a day, Tengimfene said, adding that the safety investigation is expected to last one to two weeks.

NTP Radioisotopes is a subsidiary of the state-owned South African Nuclear Energy Corporation and uses the 20 megawatt Safari-1 research reactor at Pelindaba, in operation since 1965, to produce Mo-99.

Tengimfene said the reactor was not compromised and remains operational, adding that the company has been in contact with back-up suppliers to help to meet orders during the outage.

NTP Radioisotopes has for two decades maintained a successful consortium supply arrangement with IRE of Belgium to provide back-up supply during disruptions.

NTP also has a partnership with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.

Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by David Goodman

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