Canada has always been a leader in the field of medical isotopes. We were the first country to successfully demonstrate the use of large radiotherapy sources to treat cancer. Our research reactors produced many of the isotopes that were used in the early research into nuclear medicine, and we went on to become world dominating producers of the most common medical isotopes including technetium- 99m, iodine-125 and cobalt-60. Many of these initial opportunities resulted from work to support the development CANDU and later because CANDUs happen to be particularly useful for Isotope production. Many of us in the conventional nuclear industry know about this work.
Not everyone is aware that other related industries developed from these roots so that Canada also became a world leader in cyclotron produced isotopes and it became home to TRIUMF a world leading particle accelerator centre and that that led directly to ACSI in Richmond BC becoming a world leading cyclotron supplier.
But over time, the progeny of our early-stage leadership progressively parted company to become, often unrecognized, small parts of another industry that only attracted attention when something went wrong. (People seem to be able to remember the isotope crisis but find it hard to recognize that Canada had been such a reliable provider of most of the world’s most commonly used isotopes that no one even knew). Our leadership in the field ceased to be recognized because it was dispersed.
So it is fantastic to see these entities coming together again and in doing so making people realise this is a field of Canadian enterprise that is worth our government’s attention. This week after a lot of hard work from a great many people the Federal Government announced $35 million of support for a Canadian Medical Isotope Ecosystem that includes organizations that are researching new ways of using medical isotopes, new isotopes that could be used in medicine and new reliable high volume isotope production processes. https://www.canada.ca/en/innovation-science-economic-development/news/2023/06/government-strengthens-canadas-leadership-role-in-medical-isotope-production.html
It is especially important at this time when there is a renaissance of interest in nuclear medicine and the potential for new isotopes such as Lutetium-177 and Actinium-225 to dramatically improve cancer care.
And it didn’t happen by accident. It took a concerted effort from many people to take the many small parts that when summed did still not create much excitement and create a whole that sparked the imagination of our politicians and won their support. Many people contributed to this effort, notably the members of the ecosystem and the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council, which produced a compelling report on the state of the sector and the opportunity it creates for Canada. You can read it here https://s40421.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/CNIC-Isotopes-for-Hope.pdf.
Congratulations to all involved, your hard work has paid off, winning not just this financial support but gaining recognition for this important Canadian industrial sector. .
I have been telling people for a long time that modern society could not exist without the support of the nuclear industry, and this is just another tremendous example of the essential work that we do.