France’s Framatome and Canada-based Kinectrics have announced the launch of an Ontario-based joint venture, Isogen, to provide and support isotope production systems so that Bruce Power’s nuclear reactors in Canada can begin the production of medical isotope Lutetium-177.

Bernard Fontana, CEO at Framatome said: “Together, we are working with Bruce Power to maximise existing infrastructure, already known for producing reliable, low-carbon electricity, and making important, lifesaving medical treatments available to patients around the world.”

Isogen has partnered with Bruce Power to leverage the eight-unit facility to anchor a new, global supply of radioisotopes.

Once regulatory and other approvals are in place, the aim is to begin isotope production in 2022. The goal would be to scale up production based on demands for Lutetium-177 and other isotopes.

Lutetium-177 can be produced by exposing Ytterbium-176 to radiation. At Bruce, the Ytterbium-176 source material would be sealed in special containers and placed in an isotope production system in one of the reactors for about two weeks. The resulting containers of Lutetium-177 would be sent for processing and distribution to healthcare facilities worldwide.

Isogen will design, supply and support the licensing of the isotope production system.

Isotopen Technologien München (ITM), a specialised radiopharmaceutical company, will deliver the Ytterbium-176 to the Bruce Power site. Isogen will handle and prepare the source material according to ITM requirements.

Westinghouse teams with Nordion

Meanwhile, on 26 February, Westinghouse Electric Company and Nordion (Canada), a Sotera Health Company, announced the signature of a Letter of Intent to develop innovative isotope production technology so that Cobalt-60 can be produced in pressurised water reactors (PWRs).

Through the collaboration, Westinghouse and Nordion will strengthen the supply of Cobalt-60. Cowhich plays a critical role in the safety of medical devices and reduces pathogens in food and other products.

"This partnership will substantially expand future supply options for life-saving Cobalt-60," said Kevin Brooks, President of Nordion. "Cobalt-60 is critical to our mission of Safeguarding Global Health™, and we continue to invest heavily in maintaining a reliable, long-term supply."

Cobalt-60 can be produced in nuclear reactors by irradiating rods of naturally occurring Cobalt-59, which is converted to Cobalt-60 during the operation of the reactor. After the conversion, it is removed from the reactor and shipped to Nordion's facility, where it is used to manufacture sealed sources for shipment to customers.

Cobalt-60 is used to sterilise medical instruments as well as in cancer treatments. Most Co-60  is produced in Candu reactors, primarily in Canada but also in Argentina, China and South Korea. Some is also produced in Russia, in RBMK reactors at Leningrad and Smolensk and in a fast neutron reactor in Beloyarsk.

Photo: Bruce nuclear power plant