FNCA 2020 Online Workshop on Research Reactor Utilization Project
December 17, 2020
Considering the difficulty in executing the workshop in line with COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to hold the online workshop on the Research Reactor Utilization (RRU) project this year in preparation to start a new phase in 2021. We summarized the current status of RIs production (for RRU group) / environmental monitoring for Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA group) in each country and shared the information for our next year's activities in this online workshop. In the plenary session the individual project leaders of Japan provided an overview of the current projects of RRU and NAA, and referred to several major issues of the workshop. In the parallel sessions, the detailed content of the discussions was summarized for each of the two groups, RRU and NAA. We shared each summary in the wrap up session.
For the preparation of country reports, the Japanese project leaders asked participants to include the following topics in their presentations:
1) Impact of the pandemic on R&D activities (working condition, facilities usage status, additional special work (if any), etc.)
2) The current progress and results for FNCA activities
3) Future plan from FY2021
RRU: Isotope production including new isotopes
Production and supply of radiopharmaceuticals to domestic market continued as normal during the pandemic period. However, overseas export was interrupted due to reduced commercial flights and border closures.
Australia continued manufacturing 99Mo, 99mTc, 131I, 177Lu, 51Cr, 911Ir, 198Au radioisotopes and production of the isotopes is planned to increase from early 2021 as the supply chain is expected to return to normal, especially for export to international markets. Australia is producing 90Y, 166Ho and 32P to support the clinical trials of the new radioisotopes.
Radioisotope (RI) production laboratory of Bangladesh is producing 99Mo/99mTc generator and 131I oral solution on weekly basis to meet the demand of medically important radioisotopes of the country. The RI group has the plan to produce 89Sr as a new isotope due to its medical usage. The calculation for the preparation of 89Sr using BAEC reactor with target SrCO3 following 88Sr (n,γ) 89Sr reaction process is ongoing. The experimental part will take longer time because of the unavailability of target material in local market.
Although effected by the coronavirus pandemic, nuclear facilities had been put into operation according the annual plan including research reactors such as swimming pool research reactor (SPRR) and china advanced research reactor (CARR). SPRR is operating for 100 EFPD to material test and NDT silicon and CARR is operating for 30 EFPD to Nuclear Science and material test.
The RSG-GAS (G.A Siwabessy multipurpose reactor) is operated by BATAN for 33 Years. Mainly the reactor is used for radioisotope production. BATAN has produced commercial RI/RF MIBI, MDP, DTPA kits 153Sm-EDTMP, 131I-MIBG, and in research stage BATAN has produced 99Mo/99mTc generator based on nanomaterial, Na-131I, [γ-32P] ATP, 177Lu-DOTA-Trastuzumab, Gd-DOTA-PAMAM G3-Trastuzumab, 192Iridium-seeds, 32P Skin patch and Au-NP-PAMAM G4-Nimotuzumab. BATAN has developed product 99Mo from natural Molybdenum. Research on Nuclear Fuel Element is ongoing in the reactor.
From November in 2020, the Research Reactor of Kyoto University (KUR) has been operated in the steady state mode for several researches (RIs production and materials research etc.) with a maximum power of 1 and 5 MW. The research of RIs production such as 47Sc, 105Rh and 177Lu (etc.) for medical use were produced and the amounts produced were compared with those produced by electron linear accelerators. Further, Research Reactor of JAEA (JRR-3) will operate in February 2021 with a maximum power of 20MW. The RIs production, researches for, e.g., life and materials science will be continued by JAEA staff, university and company researchers using JRR-3.
Year 2020 turned out to be a difficult year for all countries and this is due to the coronavirus pandemic in the world. The work of many organizations was suspended, employees switched to a remote mode of work. Airlines have suspended flights between countries. During this period, the workload of research reactors in the Republic of Kazakhstan decreased. This especially affected the exported products such as radioisotopes. In general, work continued in all areas: RI production, NR, HRD, NAA, Material Research, and Nuclear Science.
The supply of radioisotopes was carried out only to the domestic market of Kazakhstan. In this year, producing of reactor-based radioisotopes are 99mTc for medicine and 192Ir for industry. R&D for production of 177Lu is ongoing.
The Malaysian Nuclear Agency continues to support the utilization of the Reactor TRIGA PUSPATI (RTP). The current research reactor is low power and has been operating for more than 35 years. The maximum neutron flux is 1 x 1013 cm-2.s-1. The RTP operates four days per week and around 8 hours per day. However, in some circumstances, the reactor may prolong its operation to cater to specific requests. Previously, the 153Sm has been studied using the reactor. Due to the high interest in medical radioisotopes, studies of 177Lu, 51Cr, and 165Ho are put in the streamline. Besides radioisotopes production, the reactor has also been used for neutron activation analysis, neutron beam research, and education & training. Despite this, a proposal for the feasibility study of a new research reactor has been tabled to the government for funding.
The Research Reactor (RR) project for Mongolia had been discussed internally for several years. Utilization of RR, the design study and fuel comparison analyses were conducted. Initial discussions were made with ROSATOM for project development. The proposed RR is to be utilized for Radioisotope (RI) production (99Mo/99mTc by activation method), Human Resource Development, Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA), education and training, nuclear physics and other commercial services. Currently all medical radioisotopes are imported from other countries such as Korea, China and Germany. 500 mCi of 99mTc generators are being imported from Korea for every two weeks.
The COVID-19 pandemic shutdown activities for at least three months. Then only 50% of the work force was allowed back from June to October. The Sub-critical Assembly for Training, Education and Research (SATER) was originally scheduled to be commissioned this December 2020, however due to the pandemic, the commissioning has been moved to December 2021. The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute is embarking on a 5-year program to establish a Center for Nuclear Medicine Research and Development that will have five operational PET/CT systems operating at 16.5 MeV, producing 18F, 11C, 13N, 64Cu, 43Sc and 68Ga.
Thai Research Reactor-1/ Modification 1 (TRR-1/M1) has been operated in the steady state mode with a maximum power of 1.2 MW. The reactor produced variety researches and wide ranges of applications including educational and training, radioisotope production, geochronology, neutron activation analysis, neutron imaging and instrument testing and calibration. TRR-1/M1 produces 153Sm, 82Br and 32P. Recently, the experimental in production of 177Lu was conducted for using in nuclear medicine by neutron activation of 176Lu and 176Yb. Further investigation will be performed in the future for the full potential of 177Lu production strategies.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation with many the current difficulty but Vietnam have sought many effective alternatives to meet the market such as increasing the operating time of the reactor, while other research activities had to be suspended.
NAA: Environmental monitoring with multiple measurement techniques including NAA
The pandemic forced a period of limited access to site, although the OPAL reactor continued full operations mainly to support production of medical isotopes. However due to reduced staffing in other areas, long NAA irradiation targets could be irradiated but not unpacked. Short irradiations could still be done. Alternatives were sought but would've taken too long to implement. Restrictions eventually lifted and period since June has been very busy catching up on lost time.
During the pandemic research and development activities were very much hampered because of insufficient neutron beam, insufficient LN2 supply and detector problem. During this time the pending academic collaboration works completed in priority basis, 14 papers were published and some research works were done which were not so directly related to the project. Depending on the reactor availability FNCA target activities will be completed in future. For environmental monitoring we can choose the following samples; 1) soil and sediment, 2) coal and coal fly ash, and 3) plant sample.
Because of COVID-19 we have sampled few samples in Beijing in this year, and samples analysis with NAA and PIXE were delayed. The NAA platform at China Advanced Research Reactor (CARR) is still being upgraded. Some PM2.5 reference materials were analysed by using NAA. NAA is a very important analytical method in atmosphere management in China. NAA was adopted in several national programs, including National key Research & Development Program (NRDP) and National research program for key issues in air pollution control. In 2021, PM2.5 and PM10 samples in Beijing will be collected and analysed by NAA.
FNCA activities in 2019-2020 are focused on supporting the National Research Program as presented at the last FNCA workshop. Accelerating the decline in Stunting cases is currently one of the government's priority programs. The essential element of Iodine in foodstuff is one of the important nutritional sources that affect Stunting. However, because the quantity of Iodine is at trace level, it is necessary to develop accurate and precise methods. The use of the epithermal INAA method is one of the options to determine iodine in foodstuffs. This method has been developed intensively using Cd and Boron shielding. The epithermal INAA has been used in the determination of iodine in several local foods and the analysis results are presented in this report.
Currently, the Kyoto University research reactor is the only one research reactor usable for NAA in Japan. Such a situation will be changed early next year; a research reactor, JRR-3 of JAEA will start its operation after a long break of 10 years. Although the usability will be improved for NAA end users, we are afraid of decreasing of the utilization of NAA due to the expansion of the current pandemic. We are planning to conduct both INAA and RNAA, by which geochemical and cosmochemical samples, and geological reference samples will be analyzed, respectively.
Due to the research reactor's temporary shutdown and suspended relations with the partners engaged in mineral resources exploration and processing caused by the lockdown, the planned volume of investigations by NAA was substantially reduced. The connections were recommenced and new concernments already appeared. Main challenges of next year will consist of rhenium analysis in uranium ore samples, gold and accompanying element analysis in black shales and the corresponding samples analysis for rear earths.
We are running thermal neutron based INAA, DNAA, and cold neutron activation station (CONAS) consisting of CN-PGAA and CN-NDP at the HANARO research reactor, which has been in a state of shutdown for a long time and is currently scheduled for operation in early 2021. The samples (mainly from semiconductor, geology, environments, food and so on) are now being analyzed by using other analytical instruments like ED/WD-XRF, ICP-MS and so on. And new project is underway to build a new research reactor at Kijang-gun near Busan metropolitan city.
Research activities related to analysis of soil samples were done by using NAA technique. Nowadays, monitoring of the elemental pollution in soil samples from the vicinity area and industrial park was given priority for the purpose to identify the sources of pollution. Malaysia has participated/done in analysis of samples for determination of pollution sources of heavy, trace and rare earth elements (REEs) in soils collected from the Kapar industrial park.
In 2020, environmental monitoring including air pollution, food pollution, and air morphological distribution, were implemented by NAA and other related methods. Results of morphological study show that the summer PM pollution is in sphere shape from the soil, and winter PM pollution is in irregular from the solid fuel combustion. In case of food pollution, contents of heavy and toxic elements did not exceed the permissible level.
Sampling for air particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) is being continued in the best way possible despite of the restrictions posted by the community quarantine measures. There were no neutron activation analyses that have been done for these samples due to lack of an operating reactor or access to one but PNRI is considering to propose a collaborative work with Vietnam. The Philippines have established collaborative study on air particulates matter in some part of the country and is planning on considering as well the NAA of environmental samples such as marine and estuarine sediments, volcanic ash, and tektites.
REE and other element concentrations in certified reference material, JG-2 were reported using INAA. Their values were in good agreement with the reference values. The measurements of REE and other elements in 10 geological samples were carried out using INAA and ICP-MS with microwave assisted digestion and fusion dissolution methods. The environmental monitoring materials for next year would be PM2.5, PM10, soils, crops and geological samples.
The R&D activities in Dalat research reactor were not affect by the pandemic. The reactor is running continuously to increase radioisotopes production for hospitals. In some MOST (Ministry of Science and Technology) projects, moss samples were collected at 30 different locations, and the concentrations of 10 heavy metal and metalloid elements in the collected moss samples were determined by k0-INAA. Elemental concentrations of marine sediment samples were analyzed using k0-INAA for studying coastal erosion. 14 REEs and U&Th in 50 clay samples as archaeological
Wrap up session
The RRU project has quite broad topics and therefore it was agreed to focus on one and/or two specific topics in the current phase (2020-2023) for better outcomes and improvements in knowledge.
The RRU project includes the following topics:
a. Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA)
b. Isotope Production including new isotopes
c. Neutron Scattering
d. BNCT, NR
e. Material Research
f. New Research Reactor
g. Human Resource Development and so on.
The participants from member countries discussed several topics in RRU group. The specific topics in the nuclear science field were considered in the workshop of phase 2 (2020-2023) according to a questionnaire to each member country. Possible topics are listed here in order: 1) radioisotopes production (RIs) and new isotopes (which is included some of discussions in the report of this year), purification, further Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) for practical use (if any), 2) New Research Reactor, 3) Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT), Neutron Radiography (NR), 4) Human Resources and Development (HRD), 5) Material Research and further 6) possible other topics and/or news.
The NAA group agreed to adopt environmental samples as target materials last year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project couldn't be initiated in 2020, but will be starting in 2021, continued to 2023. For the current phase, it was agreed that environmental samples cover not only "common" environmental samples like air particulate matters but also substances around us like geological samples, soil and even food. As NAA has a capability of multi-element determination for wide variety of solid sample, it can complete with and even be superior to modern analytical methods like ICP-MS and ICP-AES for such solid environmental samples. In this sense, it was recommended that analytical methods other than NAA be applied to these sample when research reactor are temporally or permanently not in operation for some member countries so that data comparison and validation can be done within the NAA group.