By: Mike Rencheck, President & CEO, Bruce Power
When people think about Bruce Power they usually point to our role of providing clean, reliable, and affordable electricity that was central in the phasing out of coal in Ontario or as home to Canada’s largest infrastructure project where we are extending the operational life of our facility through 2064.
We are very proud of this role and these elements are central to securing 30 per cent of Ontario’s electricity through eight reactors for decades to come. In my view, one of Ontario’s best-kept secrets is the role this infrastructure plays in fighting cancer and disease worldwide. We have the leadership role, the social responsibility, and the opportunity to do more through the production and global export of medical isotopes.
If we can help save lives, it’s our responsibility to do so.
It’s a role Canada has played for more than 60 years and has always been at the forefront when it comes to producing medical isotopes which have been used to help save millions of lives in more than 80 countries. Canada’s achievements, innovation and expertise in nuclear have allowed the international medical community to advance medical imaging, cancer therapy, sterilization, disease prevention, and food and water safety.
That’s why we are proud to be a founding member of the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council that has been successful at uniting all of the elements of Canada’s Isotope ecosystem with nearly 50 members since it was founded in April 2018.
If you’ve ever been to a hospital or medical facility in North America, Europe or Asia, you have likely been treated with medical equipment and supplies that are sterilized using our Cobalt-60, made right here in Ontario. We supply over a third of the world’s supply of this critical isotope through our partnership with Nordion, which is based in Ottawa. That means every year our isotopes sterilize literally hundreds of millions of pieces of medical equipment and supplies such as sutures, glove and syringes. This gives the world access to health care that is clean and safe, dramatically reducing the risk of infection.
The next time you visit the doctor or dentist anywhere in the world, it’s highly probable that the once-used medical equipment was sterilized by an isotope made right here in Ontario. This is all enabled through the reliable supply of isotopes from our operation and is critical infrastructure on which the global health system relies. Ontario should be very proud of our leadership role as a key exporter in this area.
We also have started producing medical-grade Cobalt-60. This isotope is used around the world to treat brain tumours and other brain illnesses. Just last week, Nordion and Bruce Power announced we are working with Xcision. This American company is deploying a new technology called the GammaPod for the treatment of breast cancer using Cobalt-60. This technology has proven to deliver focused radiation to early-stage breast cancer with good outcomes for patients.
Our goal is to build on this foundation and do more. This summer, we made a series of announcements to advance Bruce Power’s production of additional medical isotopes that reinforced our commitment to providing a reliable, long-term supply and advance into the area of prostate cancer treatments with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) as a partner.
Beginning in 2022, following regulatory and other approvals, Bruce Power is working with Framatome Canada Inc. and Kinectrics to establish delivery systems at our facility to produce Lutetium-177 for the treatment of prostate cancer. We have brought a combination of domestic and international expertise to this project to potentially deploy an isotope production capability that is reliable and secure.
We are also committed to advancing this project in a way that builds economic opportunities in Ontario. In July, we entered into an agreement with the SON to work together on creating new economic opportunities within the SON territory through the marketing of Lutetium-177 and other isotopes. We are also engaging the broader region in rural, mid-western Ontario through the establishment of the Nuclear Innovation Institute and later this year we will be launching a centre focused on isotope innovation.
Our partnership with both the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada and the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO) continues to deliver. While we are focused on making isotopes, they are on the front lines every day in the battle against cancer with their support of both families and patients. We remain committed to supporting these organizations to support their important work. This is something we must all keep front and centre in our minds during September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and do what we can to support these and so many organizations who do great work on the front lines.
All of us have been impacted by cancer, personally, through a family member, a friend, a colleague. We are committed to doing our part in this fight and no longer will we let isotopes be Ontario’s best-kept secret. Nuclear power is valuable beyond the transactional cost of electricity; because there are too many people counting on us to be successful and innovative to save lives every day.