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Irradiation, purification, isotope supply

Already a century ago, Belgium was strongly involved in medical isotope production due to its stocks of uranium ore from former Belgian Congo. This involvement in nuclear physics and radionuclide production eventually led to the creation of the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK CEN) in 1952. It is one of the two major worldwide producers of Mo-99 through irradiation of Uranium targets in its BR2 research reactor. The BR2 reactor now uses Low Enriched Uranium targets and fuel in order to avoid proliferation risks.

The processing of bulk radionuclides and the manufacturing of radiopharmaceuticals is part of the expertise of the National Institute for Radioelements (IRE), founded in 1971 as a spin-off of SCK CEN. With these two large R&D and production centres, Belgium became one of the few countries in the world able to process and supply industrial scale amounts of medical radionuclides such as Mo-99 and I-131. IRE and SCK CEN have a joined forces to produce significant quantities of non carrier added Lu-177 for targeted radionuclide therapy.

The first Belgian cyclotron was build in 1947 at the university of Leuven/Louvain. With the creation of IBA (Ion Beam Applications) in 1986 as a spin-off of the UCL Cyclotron Research Center, Belgium entered in the field of cyclotrons manufacturing and is now the largest producer of radiopharmacy and proton therapy equipment in the world. IBA thereby opened the way to the widespread local supply of short-lived radionuclides for positron emission tomography (PET), such as F-18. IBA and SCK CEN are major partners in PanTera for the industrial production of Ac-225.

​Thanks to the expertise in production and refinement of radionuclides, Belgium is one of the few countries in the world able to process and supply industrial scale amounts of medical radionuclides.