The Production of Medical Isotopes Using an Electron LINAC: Argonne’s Nuclear Scientists & Engineers in the Fight Against Cancer
Abstract: Radioisotopes have found applications in the detection and treatment of cancers, infectious diseases, and other medical conditions. The inherent difficulty of detecting and treating these diseases requires that an arsenal of nuclides with varying properties be available for personalized medicine. Diagnostic applications require the use of gamma emissions and therapy relies on the ionizing effect of alpha, beta, and Auger emissions. Research is accelerating around the world to improve the existing production methodologies as well as to develop novel radionuclides for new medical applications. Electron linear accelerators (LINACs) are unique sources of radioisotopes. Even though the basic technology has been around for decades, only recently have electron LINACs become capable of producing photons with sufficient energy and flux for radioisotope production. Housed in Building 211 is a newly upgraded 50-MeV/30-kW electron linear accelerator facility that can produce a wide range of radioisotopes. There is no other comparable facility to develop isotopes via photonuclear production within the U.S. Department of Energy complex.