NNSA and DOE advocate for noble gas emission reduction

The National Nuclear Security Administration and U.S. Department of Energy are working with the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization to decrease emissions from medical isotope production facilities.

The detection of nuclear explosives is a sophisticated, in-depth process, but often times nuclear emissions from the production of medical isotopes lead to a false detection of nuclear explosions. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two, as the xenon created when medical isotopes form is also an indicator of a nuclear explosion.

Within health and safety standards, medical isotope production can increase the radioxenon background in the atmosphere, making it look as if a nuclear explosive went live. For this reason, many production plants of medical and industrial isotopes have been exploring alternative methods of production, as the fission-based production techniques are what produce xenon. An international emissions reduction initiative, started by the CTBTO Preparatory Commission, asks medical isotope production plants to sign a pledge to reduce nuclear emissions.

Managing Director of the Institute for Radioelements Jean-Michel Vanderhofstadt and Executive Secretary-elect of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission Lassino Zerbo signed the first pledge to mitigate noble gas emissions. Authorities are hoping this encourages other medical isotope producers to pledge as well.