DOE Produces First Newly Enriched Stable Isotope in Nearly Two Decades



The US Department of Energy Isotope Program (DOE IP) recently provided more than 500 mg of highly enriched ruthenium-96 (Ru-96), most of which was newly produced at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Enriched Stable Isotope Pilot Plant (ESIPP). This marks the first production of a newly enriched stable isotope by the DOE IP in nearly 20 years. In addition, this milestone successfully fulfills a recommendation by the Isotope Subcommittee of the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee for the DOE IP to re-establish a domestic stable isotope enrichment capability.

The Ru-96 will be used at Brookhaven National Laboratory for experiments at its Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). Due to insufficient quantities of this rare isotope in DOE’s inventory or availability from other sources worldwide, a new production campaign at ESIPP was initiated. The RHIC experiment required enrichment exceeding 92 atom % with high chemical purity (>98%). Ruthenium-96 in naturally occurring Ru metal is only 5.5 atom %. 

With the Ru-96, the RHIC nuclear physics experiment will study the dynamics of the quark gluon plasma created in ion collisions in response to electromagnetic fields generated by the colliding ions; the quark gluon plasma is a new form of matter discovered at RHIC and has not existed since the infant universe. The availability of the Ru-96 makes this research viable.

Production of Ru-96 will continue at ESIPP through 2018, then will be followed with production of other stable isotopes approaching critical supply levels. Parties interested in procuring Ru-96 or other stable isotopes can request a quote through the National Isotope Development Center’s product catalog. For additional inquiries on Ru-96 availability, please contact the Isotope Business Office.