Isotope Production

From the first discovery of isotopes about a century ago, scientists have studied their benefits. Today, they impact industry, agriculture, archaeology, mining, power generation, and medicine. They have a prominent place in today’s world. All matter in the universe is comprised of elements, made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. Isotopes have extra neutrons which can make them unstable, causing them to give off energy. Those energized radioisotopes can occur naturally, or be created artificially by irradiating a stable element in a particle accelerator or a nuclear reactor like the ones at Bruce Power.

Isotope Production at Bruce Power

Bruce Power worked with Isogen to develop a made-in-Ontario Isotope Production System or IPS. The IPS will be installed in Bruce Power’s reactors though the course of the Life Extension Program or Major Component Replacement project currently underway.

BP will first use the IPS to produce a medical isotope called Luetitium-177 (lu-177), a medical isotope which is currently used to treat neuroendocrine tumors and has applications for prostate and breast cancer treatments.

The IPS is used to turn targets into medical isotopes through a process referred to as irradiation. This is a similar process used by Bruce Power in the production of Cobalt-60. Lu-177 is made in the IPS by irradiating a stable isotope called Ytterbium-176.

The Yt-176 is sealed in special containers and placed in the reactors for about two weeks and then sent for processing and distribution to health care facilities. Each container may contain enough Lu-177 for about 200 patient treatments.

ITM is the partner responsible for supplying the Yt-176 to Isogen for irradiation in the IPS at Bruce Power and for processing and distributing the final product. Once irradiated to Lu-177, ITM receives and processes the Lu-177 into the final medical grade product and distributes to health care clients globally. Nuclear medicines using Lu-177 will allow doctors to target and destroy cancer cells, while leaving healthy tissues unaffected. The Partnership expects Lu-177 production and availability to the world market in 2022.

The production of Lutetium-177 does not generate any nuclear waste as all the materials are either used for treatment of patients or are recycled to be used to produce more of the isotope.

Lutetum-177

Bruce Power will have the first nuclear reactor in the world producing Lu-177.

Lutetium-177 or Lu-177 is used to treat neuroendocrine tumors and has applications for diagnosis and treatment of prostate and breast cancer.

Lu-177 is produced by irradiating a different stable element called Ytterbium-176 in the IPS for 2 weeks until the neutron composition of the isotope changes and becomes energy giving or unstable and creating Lu-177.

Lutetium-177 allows for targeted and precise treatments, destroying cancer cells while limiting damage to surrounding healthy tissues and organs,

Demand for Lu-177 is increasing due to its proven application in cancer diagnostics and treatment and the current supply comes from very few research reactors that cannot meet demand.

Producing Lu-177 at Bruce Power will create unmatched capacity to provide a redundant and reliable supply of Lu-177 that will improve local and global access to these cancer fighting tools

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