IARC leverages Fermilab’s expertise in accelerator technology and knowledge of the effects of radiation on matter to assist the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in identifying ways to reduce the nation’s reliance on radioactive materials in medicine and industry.
The Office of Radiological Security (ORS) of the NNSA provided Fermilab with funds in FY 2017 to conduct an independent Sterilization Product Validation Study. The purpose of the study was to better understand what will be required for medical device companies to switch from using cobalt-60 gamma sources to electron-beam or X-ray to sterilize their products. The study was extremely well-received, and IARC has been asked to present the study results to multiple audiences in the radiological security community. IARC then proposed a follow-up study to NNSA to evaluate the properties of the highest value and most commonly used medical device materials when irradiated by x-ray and electron beams and compare results with those from gamma sources to place that information in the public domain. This information would be available for any medical device manufacturer to use to evaluate the benefits of using an accelerator-based system, and as supporting evidence for material performance when making regulatory submissions for new sterilization modalities. The NNSA accepted this suggestion and announced subsequent funding for such a study. Although the funding for the follow-up study was awarded to another national lab, the IARC proposal was extremely well-received by NNSA, and the IARC team is continuing to work with NNSA to identify suitable funding opportunities.
Opportunities to use mobile or compact accelerators for food sterilization are also under evaluation. Potential funding partners include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and various state agencies.