New Canadian radioisiotope partnerships announced

22 July 2020

A newly signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Bruce Power, Isogen and BWXT ITG Canada Inc (BWXT) will see them work together to advance the production of medical radioisotopes in Ontario. Bruce has also signed an MoU with McMaster University on the applications and supply of established and emerging medical isotopes.

Bruce Power's nuclear power plant (Image: Bruce)

The Bruce, Isogen and BWXT partnership will advance feasibility work for the production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) and will also study the technical and economic feasibility of the production and supply of other medical isotopes, leveraging existing production systems being developed to produce lutetium-177 (Lu-177), starting in 2022. The organisations will also carry out an assessment of future isotope processing within the Grey-Huron-Bruce region to take advantage of the proximity of Bruce Power's nuclear site to supply domestic and international needs.

Bruce Power is a producer of cobalt-60 (Co-60), which is used to sterilise medical equipment and personal protective equipment, and in 2019 began harvesting medical-grade Co-60 - a high-energy gamma-ray emitter that is now being used as an alternative to traditional brain surgery and radiation therapy for the treatment of complex brain conditions.

James Scongack, Bruce Power's vice president for corporate affairs and operational services, said the collaboration with Isogen - a partnership of Framatome and Kinectrics formed earlier this year - and BWXT reconfirmed Canada's status as a medical isotopes leader and would continue to build on "strong collaboration" between Bruce and Ontario Power Generation (OPG).

OPG's Darlington nuclear power plant is set to become the world's first large-scale commercial nuclear power station to produce Mo-99 under an existing agreement with BWXT. The latest agreement will provide additional options to secure the supply of the isotope, OPG President, Nuclear Dominique Minière said.

"With OPG on track to start producing [Mo-99] as early as January 2022, we will be able to supply the current and future North American demand for this important isotope," he said, adding that Isogen is committed to exploring the viability of Mo-99 production with BWXT at Bruce.

The three organisations will also explore the potential for engaging with research organisations and academic centres, including McMaster University and the TRIUMF particle accelerator centre, on the production of isotopes.

Academic collaboration

An MoU between McMaster University and Bruce on advancing nuclear technologies including medical isotopes was signed last week. The 5 MW McMaster Nuclear Reactor is the most powerful research reactor at a Canadian university and is the world's largest producer of iodine-125, as well as a major supplier of holmium-166, both of which are used to treat cancer.

The partnership will explore applications of established medical isotopes and address emerging medical isotopes, including Lu-177. They will also work to advance energy science, including technologies related to small modular reactors and using McMaster's nuclear research facilities to support Bruce's Major Component Replacement projects.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News