Medical-Grade Cobalt-60 Production Back On Track

Bruce Power announced this week it had completed a harvest of medical-grade cobalt-60, which will be used to diagnose and treat brain and breast cancers.

Cobalt 60 HarvestThe medical-grade isotope spent nearly two years in Bruce Power Unit 7 reactor, where it has been processing to be ready in time to ensure a supply to the medical community, which previously relied on the National Research Universal reactor in Canada. That reactor closed in 2018, making it imperative that another source for medical-grade cobalt-60 be created.

Almost all of the world’s supply of medical-grade cobalt-60 is made inside Candu reactors, according to the World Nuclear Association. However, Ottawa-based Nordion, where the isotope will be processed and distributed, has also acquired patents from GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas that will enable the isotope to be created using light-water reactors, including pressurized water and boiling water reactors.

Medical-grade cobalt-60 powers the Gamma Knife, which allows a very specific 200 beams of radiation to be directed at a tumor with little interaction with the surrounding tissue. This makes it a prized radiation technique for brain and breast tumors.

The isotope is also used in Xcisio’s GammaPod, which is a solution that is designed to provide non-invasive treatments to patients “with the potential to shorten the course of radiotherapy and limit doses to the surrounding healthy tissue, including the whole breast, heart and lungs,” Bruce Power noted.

“When it was announced the National Research Universal reactor at Chalk River was going to be retired in 2018, the medical community was worried there would be a shortage of life-saving medical isotopes,” said Mike Rencheck, Bruce Power’s President and CEO. “Bruce Power quickly developed a process to produce medical-grade Cobalt-60 in order to prevent a shortage of this cancer-fighting isotope. By doing so we are ensuring a long-term, stable supply of medical isotopes, advancing human health and saving lives.”

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