Nuclear Medicine Meltdown Threatens Heart and Cancer Patients

It is time to add a new phrase to the dictionary of disasters: Technetium-99 -- also known as Tech-99 or Tc99m. If you, or someone you know, suffers from heart disease, cancer or a score of other medical conditions, a shortage of Tc99m could be life-threatening.

Tc99m is the radioactive material used in four out of five of the 20 million nuclear medicine procedures performed in the United States every year, and it is now in critically short supply.

The 52-year-old nuclear reactor that produces close to half the world's supply of Tc99m has been shut down and may never reopen. Compounding the problem, Tc99m cannot be stockpiled because it has a short half-life. Doctors and hospit