About 80% of the world production of medical isotopes (used for diagnostic purposes and cancer treatment) comes from two specialized nuclear reactors. One, called Chalk River in Canada, is good for close to 50%, the other one is Petten, located in the North-Western part of the Netherlands. Chalk River closed operations for repairs and maintenance last May, but it seems things are not going well. Latest is that the reactor will be rebooted March 1st 2010.

Petten was build about 40 years ago and is running on its last legs. It is scheduled to be closed for repairs March 1st 2010 because of problems in the cooling system (leaks and bubbles). That issue has it already running on what we call here a “brook-permit”. It’s out of spec, but they can use it for the time being. Only one tiny issue in Canada and the world supply will fall from just over 50% of capacity now to about 20%. That will seriously hurt treatment options, so there is pressure to keep Petten open a little bit longer.

Your next diagnose or treatment might come from this tiny country.