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Coquí RadioPharmaceuticals (Coquí) completed the schematic design for a new medical isotope production facility (MIPF) in Alachua County, Florida, US, in April 2015 and has initiated the detailed design.
The facility will be the first commercial supplier of the radioisotope Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) that is used in 20 million procedures a year in the US. It will use low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel to produce the radioisotope.
Medical diagnostic and therapeutic radioisotopes used in the US are currently imported from a Canadian production facility that is expected to be closed in 2016, while no other company produces Tc-99m in the Western Hemisphere.
Coquí expects to submit a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the construction of the facility by the end of 2015, following a critical design review in August and submission of an environmental report two months prior to the submission of the application.
Ground breaking for construction of the plant is expected in 2017. The project is estimated to involve an investment of $330m and create up to 164 jobs.
Details of the first commercial medical isotope facility in the US
The medical isotope production facility will have a total floor space of 250,000ft². It will be built on 25 acres of land donated by the University of Florida Foundation in January 2015. It will be constructed using open pool reactor technology, which was used for the construction of an OPAL reactor in Australia.
The facility will include two pool-type MTR reactors, a radio isotope processing plant, a waste conditioning plant and administrative and support services offices.
It is planned to have a capacity of 7,000 six-day curies a week and is expected to fully comply with the Global Threat Reduction Initiative that aims to facilitate quick disposition of high-risk, vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials.
Medical isotopes are used in medical tests to detect a wide range of diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Technetium-99m, which is derived from Mo-99, is the most widely used medical isotope in the world.
Location benefits of the medical isotope production facility
The site was chosen for a number of reasons, including its location 106ft above mean sea level, slightly sloped topography and availability of skilled workforce owing to its proximity to the university.
In addition, the University of Florida Training Reactor (UFTR) ensures availability of knowledgeable local emergency responders.
The state of Florida also has an emergency plan in place because of existing power reactors.
Germany-based Max Planck Society opened its new biomedical research facility, the Max Planck Florida Institute (MPFI), in June 2012.
The facility will be installed with sophisticated equipment including hot cells with an enclosure ventilation system to keep cells at less than atmospheric pressure, and shielded containers to transport the targets, radioactive material and waste.
It will feature thermal baths, heat exchangers, hydrogen recombiner, dissolver, vacuum pumps and tanks for liquid and gaseous waste collection.
Other equipment will include reactor coolant systems, engineered safety features, as well as instrumentation and control systems.
Sustainability features of Coquí’s facility
Buildings at the MIP facility will be constructed to operate on a minimum energy consumption rate with limited carbon dioxide emissions.
The building will be designed to mitigate solar exposure and enhance daylight control. Its design will also ensure the most effective use of water inside the facility, as well as for the landscaping outside.
Contractors involved with Coquí’s medical isotope production facility
Argentinian nuclear engineering firm INVAP was contracted to provide design and construction services for the MIP facility in November 2014. INVAP was also involved in the design of the OPAL reactor and has 30 years of experience in nuclear development.
Gresham, Smith and Partners were selected as the consultant for siting, environmental data collection and environmental report (ER) preparation. ENERCON was appointed as the consultant to assist in preparation of the construction and permit application.
MPR Associates was selected to serve as the owner’s engineer and consultant to Coquí. Hogan Lovells was appointed to act as nuclear regulatory and environmental attorneys for the project.
Based in Coral Gables, Coquí RadioPharmaceuticals is a Puerto Rican medical isotope company dedicated to the production of Mo-99. It was founded in 2009 with the aim of establishing a reliable and commercially-scalable medical diagnostic and therapeutic radioisotopes supply base in the US.
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