Making medicine solving the problems of molybdium-99 production [abstract]
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The United States currently receives more than 90% of its molybdium-99 from outside sources like Canada and the U.K. Moly-99, as it is called, is a key ingredient for many chemotherapy treatments and medical imaging techniques; it is however, an unstable isotope that has a short half-life and is not often found in nature. Developing a method to safely produce moly-99 will not only ensure a stable, local supply of moly-99, but will also produce multi-million dollars of revenue. In order to create moly-99, uranium must undergo neutron bombardment, and be converted to different and exotic isotopes, of which roughly 6% will be moly-99. This takes place in a nuclear reactor, where low enriched uranium is used to produce moly-99. In the processing of uranium large amounts of heat are generated, and this must be removed. This is done by passing water over the target that contains the uranium. However, before processing can begin, the amount of material that can be processed in each target must be calculated in order to ensure the stability of the process, and application for permits to begin processing must be made to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In the first phase of this research project we seek to develop a reliable and repeatable method for calibrating a flow sensor, and then to measure the flow in the channel that will house the uranium target. Once the flow in the channel has been established, this will allow for production of Moly-99 to begin. The second phase will involve building a test wedge that will allow for the flow in any channel in the nuclear reactor to be easily measured, and models developed to evaluate processing possibilities for the reactor as a whole.