Canada’s Bruce Power and Isogen, an Ontario-based joint venture between Kinectrics and Framatome Canada, have marked a critical milestones in their isotope production project, Bruce Power announced.

A dedicated mock-up of the Isotope Production System to be deployed to Bruce Power’s nuclear units to produce Lutetium-177, construction of which began in January, is currently in its final phase of engineering, testing, and design.

The system is Ontario-designed and manufactured and will offer flexibility in function, supporting the future production of other isotopes in addition to Lutetium-177 in order to leverage the Bruce Power site to provide a stable, redundant supply of many medical isotopes for decades to come.

Isotope production is expected to start in 2022 following regulatory and other approvals. Lutetium-177 is produced by irradiating ytterbium-176. The ytterbium-176 source material, in special sealed containers, will be placed in an isotope production system in one of the Bruce Power reactors for about two weeks. The resulting containers of lutetium-177 will be sent for processing and distribution to health care facilities.

Germany-based Isotopen Technologien München (ITM) is the exclusive partner which manufactures Lu-177, based on targets irradiated by Bruce Power and Isogen. ITM will deliver the ytterbium-176 to the Bruce Power site, where Isogen will be responsible for handling and preparing the source material according to ITM requirements.

Medical isotopes are increasingly being used in innovative applications as targeted therapies in the treatment of cancers, as well as a tool in the sterilisation of medical equipment to help protect front line healthcare workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leveraging investments being made at the Bruce Power site, the nuclear industry in Ontario will help ensure a steady supply of these essential healthcare tools for decades to come. Ontario’s Associate Minister of Energy, Bill Walker, said the partnership between Isogen and Bruce Power “will not only help to expand Canada’s leadership role in the global isotope community by supporting new and innovative cancer treatments, but also demonstrates a commitment to made-in-Ontario solutions to achieving our collective goals in healthcare.”

Bruce Power President and CEO Mike Rencheck said: “The innovative technology being deployed in our newly-designed Isotope Production System is a game-changer that will enable medical advancements by creating a large scale access to production. This new, large-scale capacity and redundancy of isotope production can improve global access to existing and new radioisotopes in the fight against cancer and other diseases.”

“We continue to fulfil our commitment to advance isotope production with the completion of this critical milestone,” said Curtis Van Cleve, CEO and President of Framatome Canada Ltd. “The mock-up will allow us to test and validate the system, equipment and process before we take the next step in this journey toward a supply of medical isotopes that is reliable and consistent. The community of suppliers and local stakeholders who also support this mission are integral to our success.”

“The advancement of the Lutetium-177 project sends a strong message across Canada and the world that we are committed to doing our part in the in the fight against cancer,” said James Scongack, Chair of the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council. “We are proud of the innovative work being done by Canadian companies in expanding Canada’s leadership role in the growing global medical isotope supply chain.”

After the mock-up Isotope Production System has been fully tested and engineering is complete, which is expected in autumn, the facility will transition to building systems for use in Bruce Power’s reactors and will also serve as a training site for employees.

Bruce Power has also partnered with Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) on the isotope project. The collaboration will involve Bruce Power and SON jointly marketing new isotopes while also working together to put in place new economic opportunities within the SON territory by establishing new isotope infrastructure.

In July, Bruce Power, Isogen and BWXT ITG Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding to advance feasibility work for the production of Molybdenum-99. The partnership will work to leverage the production systems being developed to produce Lutetium-177. Bruce Power’s eight Candu pressurised heavy water reactors, which are undergoing refurbishment as part of a life extension programme, also produce cobalt-60.