By James Scongack
February may be best known for Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day and Family Day but it also includes World Cancer Day (February 4) and International Childhood Cancer Day (February 15). Many families in our community and across the world are impacted by cancer. Bruce Power employees, and the entire nuclear supply chain in Ontario, take great pride in producing medical isotopes for the global medical community to keep hospitals safe and fight cancer.
Canada, and specifically Ontario, is a world leader in the production and supply of medical isotopes, and Bruce Power is proud to play an important role. This past November, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker introduced a Private Member’s motion to assert Ontario’s leadership role in the production and supply of medical isotopes as a strategic priority for the province. The motion passed with all party support.
Bruce Power has been a critical supplier of medical isotopes worldwide for more than 30 years. Cobalt-60 produced in our Bruce B reactors, produce Cobalt-60 used to sterilize 40 per cent of the world’s single-use medical devices. During the pandemic, this supply has become increasingly important to keep hospitals safe.
In 2014, we worked with our Ottawa-based isotope partner Nordion, to address a concern about the global supply of medical grade Cobalt-60, which was mostly used to treat brain tumours. With the closure of a research reactor in 2018, significant global shortages would occur with no credible plan to replace this supply.
Under tight timelines to meet this demand (this type of Cobalt takes 2-3 years to make), we worked to determine the feasibility to produce these isotopes on site, while considering the commercial, engineering, regulatory, and reactor safety implications. In July 2016, Bruce Power entered into an agreement with Nordion for this new medical grade Cobalt supply, with the first harvest in early 2019 to meet the supply shortage. Bruce Power’s most recent harvest of Cobalt-60 was completed in January.
In 2022, Bruce Power will celebrate another innovation milestone in the isotope sector with the installation of a groundbreaking Isotope Production System. This milestone will see Bruce Power become the first power reactor in the world with installed capability to produce Lutetium-177, a medical isotope used in the treatment of neuroendocrine tumours and prostate cancer.
The Isotope Production System Project is a partnership between many organizations including Bruce Power, Isogen (a Kinectrics and Framatome company), ITM and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON). Bruce Power will be marketing the new isotope supply in a historic collaboration partnership with SON. The partnership project, named “Gamzook’aamin aakoziwin” which translates to “We are teaming up on the sickness,” includes an equity stake for SON and a revenue-sharing program that directly benefits the Nation.
We are proud of the work we do and are committed to continuing to innovate and seek new ways to expand the isotopes we produce so we can continue to deliver life-saving medical isotopes to hospitals around the world, and support families impacted by cancer in the process.
As always, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. You can also follow me on Twitter @jscongack