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Sustainable Waste Management for Nuclear Medicine


Nuclear medicine is a medical specialty that uses radiopharmaceuticals to assess bodily functions and to diagnose and treat disease. It is used to diagnose cancers, musculoskeletal issues, and heart and lung diseases. It is estimated that every Australian is likely to benefit from nuclear medicine at some point in their lifetime.


ANSTO, Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, is a major contributor to the global supply of nuclear medicine. The most widely used radioisotope in nuclear medicine, technetium-99 (Tc-99m) accounts for approximately 80% of all nuclear medicine procedures worldwide. Tc-99m decays from its parent radioisotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99). Mo-99 is produced at ANSTO through the OPAL nuclear reactor and ANSTO’s Mo-99 Manufacturing Facility. The ANSTO Nuclear Medicine Processing and Distribution facility then packages up the Mo-99 into shielded Gentech® Generators that can be safety distributed around the country.


ANSTO also produces a range of nuclear medicines including iodine-131 for the treatment of thyroid cancer, lutetium-177 for the treatment of a variety of cancers, including prostate and neuroendocrine tumours, and chromium-51 for the labelling of blood cells.

Good Health and Well-Being

ANSTO directly contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal on Good Health and Well-Being by producing these medical isotopes that are distributed all around the world. More specifically, on the target to reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being by 2030.



Most of Australia’s radioactive waste comes from the production of nuclear medicine. ANSTO deploys best practice waste management strategies and technologies for the effective management of this material.


Helixos supported ANSTO in undertaking a life-cycle assessment for waste generated during the nuclear medicine manufacturing process. This involved analysing the waste streams and their resource requirements from generation through to disposal. Helixos made strategic recommendations regarding the development of a technology roadmap and optimisations to operations to support waste minimisation.

Responsible Consumption and Production

Helixos’ support to ANSTO on this project contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal on Responsible Consumption and Production. More specifically, on the target of achieving the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimise their adverse impacts on human health and the environment.



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