A nearly three-decade-long quest to end US exports of weapons-grade uranium has surmounted one of the last remaining hurdles. On 20 December two federal agencies announced that highly enriched uranium (HEU) no longer needs to be shipped to facilities abroad for sufficient molybdenum-99 to be produced to meet US medical demand. (Weapons-grade uranium is enriched to more than 93% in 235U; HEU contains 20% or more 235U.)

Weeks earlier, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced the last in a series of grants made during a nine-year-long campaign to build a domestic 99Mo industry from scratch. Despite consuming roughly half of the world’s 99Mo, from 1989 to 2018 the US lacked its own production source. Molybdenum-99 is the parent of the medical isotope technetium-99m, which is used in about 40 000 US diagnostic procedures daily.

A $13 million award to Niowave, of Lansing,...

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