Note: This story was last updated at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 25.
A company that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates helped launch in 2006 is working with a federal cleanup contractor in Oak Ridge to extract rare isotopes from nuclear materials for cancer treatment research.
The project will significantly increase the number of cancer treatment doses available each year, federal officials and company executives said Friday. It will help remove highly enriched fissile nuclear material from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and save taxpayers an estimated $90 million, the officials and executives said. And it will recycle an isotope that would otherwise be “irretrievably lost” as the nuclear material, uranium-233, is converted into a disposal-ready form.
The U.S. Department of Energy, Isotek Systems LLC, and TerraPower celebrated with an announcement of the project in Oak Ridge on Friday morning.
TerraPower, which is based in Bellevue, Washington, where Gates is chairman, is particularly interested in actinium-225. That isotope can be extracted from thorium-229. The thorium will be removed from the fissile material, the uranium-233 stored at ORNL, by the federal cleanup contractor, Isotek.
The unique agreement, a public-private partnership, is expected to allow TerraPower the ability to make 100 times more actinium-225-based cancer treatment doses per year than the 4,000 doses that are currently available worldwide. TerraPower could first offer actinium-225 in late 2020, company executives said.[Read more…]