Americium-241: Domestic U.S. Supply Available
Did you know that for the last 20 years Americans have relied on a single foreign supplier for the active ingredient used in smoke detectors? The DOE Isotope Program has addressed this isotope shortage and is pleased to announce the re-established routine supply of americium-241 (Am-241). The isotope is vital for a variety of additional applications like oil and gas exploration and moisture gauges.
In the 1970s and 1980s, DOE produced Am-241 at multiple government sites, sufficiently meeting industry needs and accumulating a considerable surplus. When domestic production ceased in 1984, this surplus sustained the market through the early 2000s. Eventually, industrial customers became dependent on a single foreign supplier, leaving them vulnerable to potential supply disruptions and price volatility.
The DOE IP realized the importance of restoring a long-term domestic supply of Am-241 and, in 2012 funded a team of researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), with the help of a consortium in the oil and gas community, to re-establish a domestic production capability. LANL is home to substantial quantities of materials from decades of defense program work. The Am-241 in these materials is now being recovered as an example of recycling rare and important isotopes that benefit U.S. citizens.
Americium-241 is used commercially in smoke detectors and moisture gauges and is being evaluated for use as heat sources in radioisotope thermoelectric generators. It is also commonly combined with beryllium to make an americium-beryllium source for well-logging in the oil and gas industry to help companies gauge geological properties of boreholes—deep, narrow holes made in the ground to help locate oil or water. With this data, strategic decisions can be made about future well development.
Currently, the NIDC has Am-241 available for purchase with an isotopic purity exceeding 99% and a plutonium content of less than 1%.
For further inquiries on Am-241 contact the NIDC at firstname.lastname@example.org or click the link below to request a quote.