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BWXT Peterborough touts ‘tremendous progress’ in medical isotope production at Darlington nuclear station

Click to play video 'Peterborough’s BWXT helps produce medical isotopes' Peterborough’s BWXT helps produce medical isotopes
BWXT Canada's Peterborough facility is helping with the production of life-saving medical isotopes at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station.

BWXT Canada’s Peterborough facility is helping with the production of commercial medical isotopes at the Darlington nuclear generating station, the company announced Thursday.

Ontario Power Generation‘s subsidiary Laurentis Energy Partners and BWXT ITG Canada Inc. (a sister company of BWXT Canada) have partnered toward the production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) at OPG’s Darlington nuclear generation station on the shore of Lake Ontario in Clarington, east of Toronto.

Read more: Soil samples for beryllium near BWXT Peterborough show no impact on environment: study

Mo-99 is a “much-needed” medical isotope used in more than 40 million procedures a year to help detect cancers and diagnose various medical conditions, BWXT states.

BWXT says over the past two years, a team of more than 100 personnel at BWXT and Laurentis designed specialized tooling at the Peterborough facility to enable the production of medical isotopes at Darlington.

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The manufacturing of this specialized tooling is currently underway in Peterborough, the company announced.

A fabrication facility was also built at the Peterborough facility to produce Mo-99 components that will be delivered by the specialized tooling, which will be installed at Darlington.

“We are leveraging BWXT’s broad capabilities to design, manufacture, install and service reactor technology in order to support the launch of this innovative solution in partnership with Laurentis,” said John MacQuarrie, president of BWXT Canada.

“Together, we have made tremendous progress towards the production of this crucial medical isotope that is used in more than 80 per cent of all nuclear medicine procedures.”

The tooling will deliver the molybdenum into the Darlington reactor for irradiation, which will enable Darlington to become the first commercial operating nuclear reactor to produce Mo-99, said Dominique Minière, president of Laurentis Energy Partners.

“This advanced equipment is an example of how Laurentis is maximizing decades of experience within the nuclear industry for the delivery of innovative solutions,” Minière said. “These milestones represent a considerable step forward in the implementation of this industry-leading technology.”

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Marty Coombs, president of BWXT ITG, noted its facility in Ottawa is also assisting the project.

“We are well underway with the transformation of our nuclear medicine facility in Ottawa to be able to process Mo-99 and manufacture Tc-99m generators,” Coombs said. “These generators will be used to make radiopharmaceuticals for patients, and will help to resolve historical shortages of this vital product.”

Jean Nash, clinical manager of molecular imaging at Toronto’s University Health Network, said over the last decade there has been a reduction in the accessibility of radioisotopes.

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 in 2018.

“And this supply issue has only been exacerbated with the onset of COVID,” Nash said. “A new, reliable supply will allow for more stable access to medical isotopes and support hospitals and clinicians in Ontario, Canada and beyond to provide better patient care.”

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