Canadian companies join up for medical isotope development

29 October 2015

Bruce Power and Nordion are to work together to secure the long-term supply of high specific activity (HSA) cobalt-60 under a memorandum of understanding signed by the two companies.

While cobalt-60 is widely used for sterilizing medical supplies, HSA cobalt-60 - also referred to as medical-grade cobalt - is used in cancer treatments, particularly the precise treatment of brain tumours. It is produced in a limited number of nuclear reactors globally. It is produced by the irradiation of cobalt-59 in Candu reactors for up to 3 years. For the past 60 years Nordion's supply of the isotope has come primarily from Canada's National Research Universal (NRU) reactor, but that reactor is due to close within the next few years.

Nordion's president of gamma technologies and corporate services Scott McIntosh said the company was "acutely aware" of the importance of securing a new long-term supply of medical-grade cobalt. "Securing a new supply is a key milestone for both companies. We're using promising new technology in Bruce Power's reactors, adding to the contribution they will make through Ontario's Long Term Energy Plan," he said.

Bruce Power already produces cobalt-60 used for sterilization purposes at its Bruce B power plant. "While Bruce Power is mostly known for generating electricity, we are very proud of the work we do with Nordion," Bruce Power president and CEO Duncan Hawthorne said. "This MOU builds on our strong relationship and recognizes our shared desire to develop a stable, additional supply source for this important isotope," he added.

The MOU will see Nordion and Bruce Power complete a range of activities to further develop the supply of the HSA cobalt-60 isotope and carry out appropriate technical, commercial and regulatory due diligence.

Nordion supplies radioisotopes and gamma technologies and is a standalone part of Sterigenics International LLC. Bruce Power operates eight Candu reactors at the Bruce A and Bruce B sites which provide around 30% of the province of Ontario's electricity.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News