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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. Opportunities to install additional IPS will be considered throughout the course of the Life-Extension Program currently underway at Bruce Power.
Bruce Power is first using the IPS to produce a medical isotope called lutetium-177 (Lu-177), a medical isotope which is currently used to treat neuroendocrine tumors andprostate cancer.
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 (Yb-176).
The Yb-176 is sealed in targets and inserted in the reactor for the required irradiation period. After irradiation, the targets are sent for processing and distribution to healthcare facilities. Each container may contain enough Lu-177 for tens of treatments.
ITM is the partner responsible for supplying the Yb-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 healthcare clients globally. Targeted radionuclide therapy using Lu-177 will allow doctors to target and destroy cancer cells, while leaving healthy tissues unaffected.
Recovered recycled target material is decayed for use in a subsequent irradiation.
Bruce Power will have the first commercial 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 created by neutron activation of Yb-176 that generates the heavier ytterbium-177 isotope to which then decays to Lu-177.
Lu-177 allows for targeted and precise treatments, destroying cancer cells while limiting damage to surrounding healthy tissues and organs.
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.