Sunday, February 01, 2009

Aqueous Homogenous Reactor Research in US

As I noted in my recent post, the Russians are developing an aqueous homogeneous rector (AHR) for medical isotope production at the Kurchatov Institute and the Institute of Physics and Power Engineering in Obninsk. But as I read a Russian-language article about the problem of Mo-99 production using LEU, I was surprised to discover that the Russians have some American competition.

The resurrected Babcock and Wilcox is developing a 200kW AHR called the Medical Isotope Production System to produce Mo-99 and other isotopes. As described by the September 2008 IAEA report Homogeneous Aqueous Solution Nuclear Reactors for the Production of Mo-99 and other Short Lived Radioisotopes:
Current concepts under consideration include a 200 kW reactor, capable of producing approximately 1,100 six day Ci/week of 99Mo and other useful isotopes. An existing containment structure formerly housing a pool type research reactor at the BWXT facility in Lynchburg, VA, is under consideration for an initial commercial facility (Figure 1). The reactor would contain approximately 150 L of LEU solution and would operate at approximately 80˚C and atmospheric pressure. A new separation/purification facility is envisioned with hot cell capacity for the several separation/purification/packaging and shipping functions as well as a waste management facility.

The recently-published Medical Isotope Production Without Highly Enriched Uranium has more details. B&W hopes to field the MIPS 5-6 years after a radiopharmaceutical partner is identified, but faces a bevy of challenges related not only to the conceptual design of the reactor, but also to the fact that NRC regulations are ambiguous as to the classification of an AHR and its waste stream. They hope to convert an existing containment structure in Lynchburg, Virginia from an old pool-type reactor to house the first unit. B&W is hiring a lead project engineer to manage the development effort. Anyone out there with experience in liquid-fueled reactor design?

UPDATE: B&W has announced a partnership with radiopharmaceutical manufacturer Covidien to develop the MIPS.


B said...

Your post on Thursday, January 29, 2009, 'The Aqueous Homogeneous Reactor Lives!' states the following: "In September of last year the Kurchatov Institute in Obninsk announced plans to build a new nuclear medicine facility on the basis of a modernized AHR" There seems to be confusion regarding IPPE [Institute for Physics and Power Engineering and Kurchatov Institute. There's some Russian text that follows that includes reference to "Physico-Energetic Institute" in the city of Obninsk, Moscow Oblast [as translated in immediately following English text]. Somebody at that blog is confusing IPPE [which has the acronym FEI in Russian - for Fysiko-Energetic Institute] and Kurchatov Institute. Furthermore, I was under the impression that IPPE, although it is not far from Moscow, was in the Kaluga Oblast.

Sovietologist said...

You're right that my January 29th post was confused about IPPE and the Kurchatov Institute. As it turns out, both IPPE and Kurchatov are involved in the development of the Russians' new AHR, and this was the source of my confusion. You're also right that Obninsk is in the Kaluga Oblast', although the Russian article says it's in the Moscow Oblast'. While the development work on the new AHR seems to be coming mostly from the Kurchatov Institute, where the ARGUS reactor is, the new reactor will be housed in an existing reactor building at IPPE to save time and money.