This article, in Nature this week, discusses the world shortage of technitium-99, which is used by thousands of patients a day in medical testing.
It’s a worry that the public don’t seem to be particularly aware of, and it’s almost frightening to read how fragile the supply chains of these isotopes are, and what impact this can have on the medical industry. Several disasters in recent years have led to complete stoppage of the supply of technetium, which led to panic in hospitals, with patients’ scans being cancelled and some people being subjected to old-fashioned testing which exposed them to higher levels of radiation.
However, problems such as these tend to spur on research in new technologies for providing these materials, and much work is being done on processes which don’t produce nuclear waste, which is a big problem with the current system. In the meantime, new reactors are currently being built, but it’s questionable whether they can cushion the blow entirely if the present reactors shutdown unexpectedly.
This article goes into tremendous detail on this issue, and gives some examples of what could be implemented to save the world from the possible medical disaster which is coming our way in the next few years.