Ontario’s Darlington Nuclear announces plan to produce medical isotopes

Ariel view of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, OPG.
Ariel view of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, OPG. Ontario Power Generation, 2017

The Darlington Nuclear Generating Station east of Toronto is poised to become a major producer of a nuclear isotope used in the detection of heart disease and cancer.

Ontario Power Generation announced on Wednesday that, pending regulatory approval, the facility would begin generation of molybdenum-99 by the end of 2019.

READ MORE: Alberta researchers suggest they can supply demand for medical isotopes

Molybdenum-99 is the parent isotope of technetium-99, which is used in about 80 per cent of all nuclear medicine scans in Canada, according to Health Canada. The scans help diagnose disease in the organs, circulatory system and bones.

Ontario’s Chalk River nuclear reactor — which was the main supplier of technetium-99 for North America — stopped regular production of isotopes in 2016, and closed earlier this year.

READ MORE: Ontario PCs call for auditor to investigate delays, cost of Darlington refurbishment  

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The OPG said in a press release that returning production to Canada will result in a continuous supply of a “lifesaving medical tool” both domestically and for the rest of North America.

The Darlington facility would be the first large nuclear plant in the world to produce the isotope, the OPG said.

The initiative is a partnership been the OPG’s nuclear subsidiary and a U.S.-based company, BWX Technologies.