Cancer treatments halted after leak in Petten nuclear reactor

Nuclear energy research center in Petten
Nuclear energy research center in PettenPhoto: Svdmolen / Wikimedia Commons

The treatment of cancer patients in the Netherlands is in danger due to a lack of medication. This was caused by the nuclear reactor in Petten being shut down after a leak last week. "We've already had to cancel on patients", nuclear physician Marcel Stokkel of the Antonie van Leeuwenhoek Hospital in Amsterdam said. It's not yet a life-threatening situation, but it will be if the reactor is shut down for another two weeks, he said to RTL Nieuws.

The majority of medical isotopes used for the irradiation of cancer patients are made in three nuclear reactors: the one in Petten, one in South Africa and one in Australia. But the reactors in South Africa and Australia are currently closed for maintenance, making the one in Petten the most important producer of this material.

"40 percent of the isotopes used world wide are made in Petten. In Europe that percentage is 65 percent", Stokkel said to to the broadcaster. "We hope that production will start up again soon."

NRG, the manager of the nuclear reactor in Petten, told the broadcaster that the regulator will decide whether or not to restart the reactor by the end of Wednesday. "We hope we get approval", a spokesperson said.

Stokel calls for the construction of another nuclear reactor. "The failures in Petten happen more and more often. The longer the construction of a new reactor is postponed, the bigger the problem becomes. If nothing is done, it will lead to life-threatening situations from 2025 onwards."