Bruce Power, AREVA partner to produce radioisotopes for cancer treatment


By Barb McKay

Radioisotope production at Bruce Power could be one Ontario girl’s only option to win her battle with cancer.

Last Tuesday, Bruce Power and AREVA signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU)to look at opportunities to commercialize radioisotope production at the nuclear power facility. Together, Bruce Power and AREVA will develop radioisotope production capabilities using AREVA’s patent-pending process to produce shorter half-life radioisotopes at the heavy water nuclear power plant. The process would have little impact on normal operations at the plant.

The radioisotopes are used in Gamma Knife technology – a targeted cancer treatment that is significantly less invasive that traditional surgeries – at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. JaydnSchill, a 14-year-old from Mount Albert, was a guest of honour at a luncheon held, in part, to celebrate the signing of the MOU. Jaydn has been battling brain cancer since she was five years old. She has undergone seven major surgeries, 123 doses of radiation and countless rounds of chemotherapy. She is currently fighting cancer for the eighth time in nine years.

“I’m running out of options,” Jaydn said.

She has reached the limit for the amount of radiation she can receive. Doctors will not perform surgery because of the number of major surgeries she has already been subjected to. Chemotherapy is no longer effective in treating her cancer. Jaydn’s final hope rests with Gamma Knife treatment using radioisotopes, a treatment that she is happy to have available to her.

“I have to say, Gamma Knife surgery was my favourite of all my treatments,” she said. “It’s like I went to sleep and I woke up and everything was fine. You can go home without feeling like you’ve been messed with. It’s amazing that they have technology like this now.”

Patients who undergo Gamma Knife surgery are able to return home the same day.

Despite her nine-year struggle,Jaydn, whose nickname is ‘Supergirl’, remains upbeat.

“You can either look at life in a positive way or a negative way and I choose to be positive.”

The MOU between Bruce Power and AREVA is the next step forward following an agreement signed between the two companies in December 2014 to evaluate the feasibility of developing on-line radioisotope production capabilities at the Bruce facility. Through the MOU, AREVA will design and build the hardware that will be installed in the nuclear reactors at the Bruce site for the on-line radioisotope production. The companies will work with industry partners to supply irradiated radioisotopes to end users.

Bill Cooper, President and CEO of AREVA NP, said the development of the technology, once commercialized, is likely the first of its kind in the world.

“It’s a very exciting time,” he said.

Following the signing of the MOU, Bruce Power announced a $5,000 donation to Princess Margaret Hospital Pediatrics.

“When you see a young lady that brave and that courageous battling cancer for that long, knowing that what we do here at Bruce Power makes a difference for her - it means everything,” said Bruce Power President and CEO Mike Rencheck.