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Final Report, NEAC Subcommittee for Isotope Research & Production Planning

Isotopes, including both radioactive and stable isotopes, make important contributions to research, medicine, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. For nearly fifty years, the Department of Energy (DOE) has actively promoted the use of isotopes by funding (a) production of isotopes at a number of national laboratories with unique nuclear reactors or particle accelerators, (b) nuclear medicine research at the laboratories and in academia, (c) research into industrial applications of isotopes, and (d) research into isotope production and processing methods. The radio- pharmaceutical and radiopharmacy industries have their origin in these DOE-funded programs. Currently, more than 12 million nuclear medicine procedures are performed each year in the United States, and it is estimated that one in every three hospitalized patients has a nuclear medicine procedure performed in the management of his or her illness.

 

Beginning with the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, the Department of Energy (DOE) and its predecessor organizations, the Energy Research and Development Agency (ERDA) and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), have actively promoted the use of isotopes by funding (a) production of isotopes at a number of national laboratories with unique nuclear reactors or particle accelerators, (b) nuclear medicine research at the laboratories and in academia, (c) research into beneficial industrial applications of isotopes, and (d) research into isotope production and processing methods. The radiopharmaceutical and radiopharmacy industries have their origin in these DOE-funded programs. Currently, more than 12 million nuclear medicine procedures are performed each year in the United States, and it is estimated that one in every three hospitalized patients has a nuclear medicine procedure performed in the management of his or her illness. Although the funding from various federal agencies has been especially successful in both medical diagnostic and therapeutic arenas, it is now widely conceded that limited availability of specific radionuclides is a constraint on research progress in this exciting area.

The lack of radionuclides significantly inhibits progress in evaluating a host of promising diagnostic and therapeutic drugs in patients with debilitating and fatal diseases, examining fundamental basic science questions, studying human behavior and normal growth and development, and exploring the aging process and the products of transgene expression. This report assesses the current status of radioactive and stable isotope availability for research, medicine, and industry in the United States and makes recommendations to the Department of Energy that will ensure the long-term capabilities of the country to provide this needed resource.