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Medical Isotopes

Treatment and diagnoses

Medical isotopes are used in the medical industry to diagnose and treat cancer, heart disease, and other medical conditions. There are more than 40 million medical procedures worldwide that use medical isotopes, and every 1 in 50 people undergo a nuclear diagnostic procedure annually in developing countries.

Canada is one of the largest medical isotope producers in the world. Canada’s Nuclear Isotope Program and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Isotope Program (DOE IP) pioneer research and development frontiers in medical isotope treatments.

The majority of the world’s medical isotopes are naturally created inside nuclear reactors. Through the movement of neutrons in the ARC-100 reactor, a fission reaction occurs which produces heat and medical isotopes, created as a by-product of the fission reaction. The medical isotopes produced can be used as life-saving medical materials for diagnoses and treatments.

“The complete supply chain for the production, processing and delivery of medical isotopes is largely represented in Canada and at the same time, Canadian researchers continue to develop innovative targeting molecules, radiolabelling strategies, and medical isotope production methodologies.”

- James Scongack, Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council Chairman

“With more than 80% of diagnostic imaging in the U.S. relying on nuclear medicine isotopes like Mo-99, the FDA has a key role to play to ensure a sufficient supply is available for critical daily medical procedures.”

- Janet Woodcock, M.D., Acting U.S. FDA Commissioner

Highly-Efficient production

The ARC-100 offers high-volume medical isotope production at highly efficient rates. One ARC-100 reactor can produce dozens of different medical isotopes, such as Co-60, Ni-63, Cu-64, Cu-67, Sr-89, Y-90, Sn-117m, I-131, Sm-145, Eu-152, Gd-153, Eu-154, Eu-155, Lu-177, Ir-192, Pb-212, Ra-223, Ac-225, and others can be naturally produced within a short period of time in fast neutron reactors.

The production of medical isotopes through the ARC-100 fast neutron reactor is highly efficient, with a 20-30 times larger isotope production volume than slow neutron (water-based) nuclear reactors. Traditional nuclear reactors use water as a coolant, which slows down its neutrons, making it more difficult to create the reactions required to produce medical isotopes. Research reactors, while having the ability to produce medical isotopes, cannot produce sufficient quantities of medical isotopes to meet industry demands.

Sodium-cooled fast reactors like the Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF) operated at the U.S. Department of Energy and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency Joyo reactor, have all tested and proven the capacity and benefits of sodium-cooled fast reactors such as the ARC-100 for large-scale and highly efficient production of medical isotopes.