A Visit to the University of Missouri Research Reactor

Do you know the feeling when you actually get to check an item off your bucket list? In October, several Triad Isotopes, Inc., Team Members and I were able to do just that. We had the pleasure and excitement of touring the MURR, the University of Missouri Research Reactor. Located in Columbia, Missouri, the reactor began operation in 1966 and has been a gem in the nuclear science world ever since. 

The MURR is a 10-megawatt facility making it the largest research reactor in the United States, almost double the reactor at MIT. Operating 6.5 days a week and 52 weeks a year is an outstanding achievement by the MURR team — and is one reason they are able to produce top results. The reactor produces about 35 different isotopes and sends out more than 1,000 shipments to 16 countries each year. The main focus of the reactor has always been, and will continue to be, research. The MURR takes pride in being leaders in research and education for those looking to apply nuclear science for advancement in the world, such as developing nuclear medicine products (for a listing of their published articles, click here). Secondarily, the MURR functions in the commercial world as well by helping to produce isotopes used in nuclear medicine and beyond. 

The MURR & Nuclear Medicine

So what exactly does the MURR do for the nuclear medicine community? The facility has commercialized several products including Quadramet®,, which was first developed to treat bone cancer in dogs, and TheraSphere®,. Today, the MURR is the sole provider in the Western Hemisphere of Sm153 and Y90 for those products. And did you know CeretecTM, which many of us use daily, was also developed at the MURR? Additionally, the reactor produces a large percentage of the Lu177 used in future radiotherapy drugs. The MURR is still expanding its role in nuclear medicine with projects looking at using gold nano-particles, targeted alpha emitter therapy and working with companies on domestic production of Mo-99. Lastly, the MURR has recently developed the capability to handle I-131, making the facility the only U.S. producer of the isotope. 

Our tour of the reactor facility with Executive Director Ralph Butler and Associate Director Dr. David Robertson began with an overview of the functions the MURR performs and the products they have helped to develop and produce. Next we toured the facility itself, which included the analysis labs where they analyze hot samples of products to determine what isotopes are present — and which plays a critical role in their research. Next, we visited the top-of-the-line classroom they use for teaching various courses related to nuclear applications. We also saw several of their clean rooms housing hot cells that are used for production of commercial isotopes along with hot cells dedicated to research and developing new methods of isotope isolation. Lastly, we were able to view the reactor itself! How cool! It was definitely a sight that I never thought I would see, and I am excited to have had the privilege to see it. Looking into a nuclear reactor, seeing the Cherenkov glow and witnessing first hand the development of products we use each day is indescribable. 

I cannot speak highly enough of the team at the MURR and the work they do. By touring the facility, we were able to see the impact it has in our medical isotope indus