Yesterday, I attended two interesting talks by people form such non-traditional universities; Huddersfield and Cambridge (nice to be able call Cambridge a non-traditional university). Both speakers were concerned with performing simulations of nuclear reactions induced by small-scale low-energy particle accelerators in order to produce medical isotopes. One of the most important medical isotopes is technetium-99m (Tc-99m). It is normally produced by taking molybdenum-99 from nuclear reactors, and letting that decay to technetium-99m. The "m" means that the technetium is in an excited state, and it decays by X-ray emission. By preparing a suitable technetium compound that targets particular parts of the body when ingested, the position of the emitted X-rays can be measured.
Through various reasons, including unplanned reactor shut-downs, the worldwide production of Tc-99m has decreased markedly. The groups at Cambridge and Huddersfield are looking at new, non-reactor-based ways of producing it, and indeed other medical radionuclides.
The picture associated with this post is from a poster presented by Naomi Ratcliffe, from Huddersfield, available from the Huddersfield website. It relates to some of the simulations of neutron yields that she presented in her talk.