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Janesville nuclear tech company with Fitchburg ties pursues 'safe, domestic' production of medical isotope
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JANESVILLE | SHINE TECHNOLOGIES

Janesville nuclear tech company with Fitchburg ties pursues 'safe, domestic' production of medical isotope

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SHINE Technologies Fitchburg facility

Nick Johnson, SHINE Technologies staff member, goes about his duties inside the company's Fitchburg-based manufacturing facility.

A Janesville-based nuclear technology company has signed one of the first contracts through the U.S. Department of Energy to expand the safe and domestic production of a material used in over 40,000 diagnostic medical procedures each day.

SHINE Technologies is pursuing commercial procurement of Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), which decays into a medical isotope used to detect heart disease, cancer and other conditions.

The company received a $35 million award from the DOE. It’s also completing a 54,000-square-foot Mo-99 manufacturing facility in Janesville and merging with Fitchburg-based scientific equipment supplier Phoenix.

In August, the DOE awarded $37 million to Beloit-based Northstar Medical Technologies — also with the goal of increasing U.S. Mo-99 production.

The aim is to make Mo-99 without needing highly enriched uranium, which can be used to make nuclear bombs and is imported from other countries.

Instead, SHINE Technologies has a way of procuring Mo-99 using low-enriched uranium, company president Todd Asmuth said, adding that the material is safer to ship around the world with little risk of it being stolen and weaponized by other countries.

The ventures seek to address a severe shortage of Mo-99 that occurred a decade ago, Asmuth said.

The DOE contract provides SHINE with enough low-enriched uranium necessary to produce Mo-99 — with requirements that any radioactive waste that can’t be disposed of commercially be returned to the department.

And the DOE award supports the company’s move to full domestic production of Mo-99 in 2023 when construction on the Janesville facility is expected to wrap up, Asmuth said.

Once finished, the facility will house eight nuclear fusion devices, which would have the capacity to produce up to 20 million doses of the isotope.

SHINE Technologies Janesville facility under construction

Construction progresses on the SHINE Technologies Mo-99 production facility in Janesville.

Phoenix merger

SHINE Technologies’ Mo-99 goals are part of a larger, four-phased effort to help create a more affordable, environmentally friendly future for the nuclear world.

Merging with Phoenix achieves a company goal of creating and deploying products using nuclear fusion.

Asmuth referred to the merger as a reunion — SHINE Technologies was originally spun out of Phoenix in 2011.

The companies came back together partly because Phoenix had employed nuclear fusion to make neutrons for industrial imaging purposes. The particles can pass through dense materials like metal.

Fusion vs. fission

Fusion is one of two types of nuclear reactions that create vast amounts of energy. Fission is the splitting of one atom into two, while fusion combines two or more atoms to make a larger particle. Neutrons can result from either reaction.

Historically, fission required a complex nuclear reactor. But SHINE is using a simpler device that achieves fusion.

Phoenix-procured accelerators require much less energy and run time, he said, which is more cost-effective.

As efficiently as a nuclear reactor, they can not only produce neutrons, but Mo-99 — and without highly enriched uranium.

The nuclear technology company’s next two phases involve finding innovative ways to recycle nuclear waste and produce clean energy. Phoenix has been and will be instrumental in meeting those objectives, Asmuth said.

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