By Jim Leute, Janesville Gazette – used by permission
JANESVILLE, WI — May 21, 2014 A Great Lakes tsunami is unlikely among residents’ fears, but it’s a scenario SHINE Medical Technologies has given considerable thought.
So, too, are plane crashes, missile strikes and the “worst tornado conceivable.”
“Our walls and ceilings will be very thick,” said Vann Bynum, chief operating officer of the company that plans to build a medical isotope production plant in Janesville.
Bynum made a presentation Tuesday to the county’s Local Emergency Planning Committee, which develops policies, procedures and emergency plans for prevention of and response to releases of hazardous chemicals.
SHINE is undergoing federal scrutiny of its environmental and safety plans for the plant across Highway 51 from the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.
The company hopes to begin production in 2017.
SHINE’s primary product will be molybdenum-99, an isotope used in more than 30 kinds of diagnostic imaging procedures and more than 50 million medical tests each year.
“Some people think we’re crazy to locate next to an airport, but we do that for a reason,” Bynum said. “Our product decays by about 1 percent an hour, so we need to get it as fast as possible to the next processor.
“The fact is we’d need to design our building to withstand a plane crash even if we were five miles from the airport.”
Bynum said SHINE spent a year collecting soil and groundwater samples from 14 monitoring wells on its 90-acre site. It tracked wind patterns and studied geology to understand earthquake probabilities.
“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has looked at all of the data and so far is very happy with what we’ve found,” he said.
The company also designed safety features into its campus, which will include a 58,000-square-foot production plant and other buildings.
One of the most significant is the way SHINE will manufacture Mo-99, Bynum said.
Most Mo-99 used in the United States is produced in Canada and the Netherlands using highly enriched uranium in high-power nuclear reactors.
SHINE will not use highly enriched uranium, and it won’t use a reactor, Bynum said. Instead, it will use accelerators and low enriched uranium.
“We are not building a nuclear reactor in Janesville and therefore won’t have the hazards or waste associated with it,” he said.
Part of SHINE’s process will involve a liquid solution that is continually recycled, he said, adding that the operation’s heat generation is equivalent to what’s produced by a hair dryer.
That eliminates the possibility of a nuclear meltdown, he said.
A diesel generator will serve as a backup during power outages. It also will be capable of fueling a nearby water pumping station.
Surrounded by two fences, the production facility is designed to keep things out.
It also is intended to keep things in, he said.
“It’s designed so nothing spills in the first place,” Bynum said, noting that the production building would not be connected to the city’s sanitary sewer system. “Beyond that, everything is double or triple contained.
“Several barriers would need to fail for anything to get out of that building.”
Encased waste will be shipped from the plant once a month.
Bynum said SHINE still plans to staff the plant with 150 people, most of whom will be local hires.
“We’re excited about Janesville and are looking forward to getting here and becoming a part of the community,” he said.