Early work begins on nuclear medicine facility

Tuesday, 13 May, 2014

Early work has begun on the ANM Project - a $168 million plan to build a nuclear medicine manufacturing plant and waste treatment plant to treat by-products for permanent, safe storage. The facility will be based at the Lucas Heights campus of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

The project, which was originally announced in September 2012, is being jointly delivered by ANSTO and a number of providers, with Watpac Construction awarded an $83 million design and construct contract earlier this year. Early siting works started last week and were inspected by Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane; the CEO of the ANSTO, Dr Adi Paterson; Watpac’s New South Wales State Manager, Ric Wang; and a host of dignitaries.

Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane (left) and Watpac Construction NSW State Manager Ric Wang (right) on site at ANSTO’s Lucas Heights campus. Photo credit: Paul K Robbins.

Through the plan, Australia will triple production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), which becomes a nuclear medicine called technetium-99m (Tc-99m) in hospitals and medical centres, and is used for diagnosis of cancers, heart disease, muscular and skeletal conditions. It is estimated that Mo-99 is used in around 45 million procedures worldwide every year, with demand continuing to grow particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

“World demand for nuclear medicine is growing as more countries develop modern medical systems, but at the same time supplies are under threat - with the research reactors that produce around 70% of this medicine due to shut in the next few years,” said Macfarlane.

“By investing in this new facility, the Australian Government has positioned Australia as a global leader in the manufacture of nuclear medicines,” he continued.

According to Dr Paterson, “ANSTO, which currently produces 550,000 doses of Mo-99 annually, has 60 years of expertise in safely managing nuclear research infrastructure in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, and are looking forward to expanding that role.

“Through this important project, we are saying to the world that Australia will at least triple its medicine capacity, increasing critical supplies and helping meet world demand with proliferation-proof medicine produced with low-enriched uranium.

“This is a great story for our organisation and great news for around 250 job seekers, many of whom are from the local community, who will gain roles in design, construction and smart manufacturing as a result of this project.”

Subject to required approvals, the plant will be operational from late 2016.

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