Molybdenum-99 is used in approximately 85% of diagnostic nuclear imaging worldwide. As shortages prompted international concern, and as Europe’s main producer of medical isotopes, it is paramount to design and advance next generation low-enriched uranium targets to safeguard Belgium’s role in medical isotope production. Desirably, these new target must not only conform to international standards and non-proliferation treaties but to go beyond and increase the isotope yield. To achieve reliable targets and isotope extraction methods, this project seeks to study the physical and chemical properties of novel irradiated fuels, compacts, and targets for Mo99 production.
Specifically, a family of high density fuels known as U6metals have been previously investigated for their ability to convert to sodium diuranate in alkaline media; a key process in extracting molybdenum from irradiated fuel. Although it has been demonstrated that these fuels are compatible for an alkaline extraction of Mo99, many questions needed for qualification are left unanswered. The scope of this PhD is to study these fuels in different forms (button, compact, target) after irradiation. Additionally, technical aspects to target making will be a skilled acquired during this PhD. Evaluating the maximum fuel loading, producing targets to a production standard will be studied. Finally, an optimization of the Mo99 extraction process needs to be examined.
Qualified candidates should have a strong background in chemistry, physics and materials science. A demonstrable record of good and safe lab practices is obligatory through recommendation by a senior lab official or promoter (min. of 4 months of observed lab practices). Knowledge in microstructural characterization techniques such as XRD, SEM, EPMA is preferred.