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AMSTERDAM, Jan 20 (Reuters) - The Dutch government on Friday approved the commissioning of a new nuclear research reactor to replace an existing reactor in Petten, which is one of the world's biggest sources of medical isotopes used to diagnose cancer, thyroid and heart disease.
The new Pallas reactor will be operational by 2022 and will replace the existing high flux reactor, the government said in a statement. About 24,000 patients a day around the world are exposed to isotopes from the Petten reactor for cancer treatment, diagnostic imaging and pain relief.
The reactor, northwest of Amsterdam, is responsible for one third of the global medical isotope supply and 60 percent of Europe's needs.
A spokeswoman for the Nuclear Research & Consultancy Group, which operates the reactor, said that a tender for the new reactor will start in the next few months.
The value of the whole project is 500 million euros ($646 million)including 80 million euros allocated by the government and local authorities, spokeswoman Jorinde Schrijver said.
"We hope that with the new reactor, we will become the leading suppliers of medical isotopes in the world," she said. ($1 = 0.7740 euros) (Reporting By Ivana Sekularac)