Issue Date: July 2, 2012
Isotope Production Program Needs Fixes
The Department of Energy should change how it sets isotope prices and reevaluate the risk of not producing enough of important isotopes through its Isotope Development & Production for Research & Applications program, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. Under this program, DOE currently sells more than 300 isotopes either from stocks of stable isotopes or by producing them at agency labs. DOE typically charges enough to recover its costs, but GAO says the agency needs to clearly define how it sets prices. The report also directs DOE to evaluate the risks of not being able to make certain isotopes available under the program. And, the report says, DOE should consolidate lists of isotopes that are important for the user community to help the program set priorities. For example, thallium-203 is considered the most important isotope by the user community’s National Isotope Development Center. But DOE’s Nuclear Science Advisory Committee lists actinium-225, astatine-211, and lead-212 as the most important for medicine, pharmaceuticals, and biology and californium-252 and radium-225 as the most important for physical sciences and engineering. DOE says the agency will address the report’s recommendations in an ongoing strategic-planning process.
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