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Table 1 Common types of radionuclide sources

From: Production of novel diagnostic radionuclides in small medical cyclotrons

  Nuclear Reactors Generators Cyclotrons
Principle of production Target material inserted in the neutron flux field undergoes fission or neutron activation transmuting into radionuclide of interest Long-lived parent radionuclide decays to short-lived daughter nuclide of interest. Daughter nuclide elution follows in pre-determined cycles Target material irradiation by charged particle beams. Inducing nuclear reactions that transmute the material into radionuclide of interest
Transmutation base Neutrons Decay p, d, t, 3He, α or heavy ion beams
Advantages - Production of neutron rich radionuclides, mostly for therapeutic use
- High production efficiency
- Centralized production: one research reactor able to supply to large regions or in some cases globally
- Available on site, no need for logistics
- Mostly long shelf life
- Easy to use
- Limited radioactive waste: returned to manufacturer after use
- Production of proton rich elements used as β+ emitters for PET scans
- Decentralized production allows for back-up chains
- High uptime
- High specific activity in most cases
- Small investment in comparison to nuclear reactor
- Little long-lived radioactive waste
Disadvantages - Extremely high investment cost
- High operational costs
- Considerable amounts of long-lived radioactive waste
- Long out-of-service periods
- Trouble to back-up in case of unforeseen downtime
- Demanding logistics, often involving air transport
- Public safety concerns
- Non-proliferation treaty concerns
- Supplies in cycles according to possible elution frequency; in-house use must be timed accordingly
- Trace contaminants of long-lived parent nuclide in eluted product
- Regional network of cyclotrons and complex logistics needed for short-lived produced radionuclides
- Radionuclide production limited depending on installed beam energy