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Another chicken recall, can nuclear technology help prevent salmonella in Canada?

On June 2, Health Canada issued a major recall of the popular No Name brand frozen chicken burgers to reduce the risk of salmonella-related illnesses across the country.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there has been an outbreak of 59 cases of salmonella-linked illnesses between March and May in eight provinces across Canada due to exposure to poultry. None of the cases have been fatal.  The investigation is ongoing and it’s possible that more products may be recalled in the near future.

This latest recall is a reminder that frozen chicken products contain raw poultry and should be handled no differently than regular poultry. It is also a reminder that chicken is currently one of the food products not irradiated in Canada.

Food irradiation is the treatment of food with a type of radiation energy known as ionizing radiation. At the levels used for food irradiation, ionizing radiation contains enough energy to kill bacteria, molds, parasites and insects.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, currently only six types of irradiated foods can be sold in Canada – potatoes, onions, wheat, flour/ whole wheat flour, whole or ground spices and dehydrated seasoning preparations, fresh raw ground beef and frozen raw ground beef.

Beef was only added to the list just last year by Health Canada. This came after nearly 20 years of lobbying by the country’s beef industry.

More than 60 countries allow irradiation of food.  Unlike Canada, the United States has permitted the irradiation of fresh and frozen ground beef since 1999. The list of foods irradiated in the U.S. is much longer than in Canada and includes pork, lobster, oysters, shrimp, fresh fruits and vegetables, and poultry, which the U.S. approved for irradiation in 1990.

Shortly after Health Canada approved the irradiation of beef, one Canadian consumer group, the Canadian Consumers Association, called for poultry to be added to the permitted list of foods.

While poultry irradiation is practiced in the U.S. and is safe, the Canadian industry is reluctant to push for it due to concerns about public acceptance – a common issue across the broader nuclear industry.

In a 2010 interview, the president of the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processor’s Council (CPEPC) explained the industry’s position.

“We believe irradiation is a good tool with good science behind it, and we’d like to see its use approved for poultry carcasses,” said Robin Horel. “However, before we would make an application to Health Canada for that, consumer attitudes would need to change.”

It is important to note that while food irradiation does not guarantee zero risk of foods causing illnesses like salmonella or E-Coli, it greatly reduces bacteria and other microorganisms that may be present in food. Even in jurisdictions like the U.S. where poultry can be irradiated, there are still recalls of chicken products due to handling issues during processing.

Remember, irradiated food must still be handled, stored and cooked properly.

If you would like to know more about the safety of food irradiation, Nordion has a great fact sheet online.

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2019 CANADIAN NUCLEAR ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS – CALL FOR NOMINATIONS

We are announcing the Call for Nominations for the 2019 Canadian Nuclear Achievement Awards, jointly sponsored by the Canadian Nuclear Society (CNS) and the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA).  These Awards represent an opportunity to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions, technical and non-technical, to various aspects of nuclear science and technology in Canada.

The deadline to submit nominations for the 2019 Canadian Nuclear Achievement Awards is January 12, 2019The Awards will be officially presented during the CNS Annual Conference held June 23 – 26, 2019 in Ottawa, ON.

Nominations may be submitted for any of the following Awards:

  • W. B. Lewis Medal
  • Ian McRae Award
  • Harold A. Smith Outstanding Contribution Award
  • Innovative Achievement Award
  • John S. Hewitt Team Achievement Award
  • Education and Communication Award
  • George C. Laurence Award for Nuclear Safety
  • Fellow of the Canadian Nuclear Society
  • R. E. Jervis Award

For detailed information on the nomination package, Awards criteria, and how to submit the nomination, see the linked brochure or visit: https://cns-snc.ca/cns/awards/. The nomination package shall include a completed and signed nomination checklist.

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Did You Know? Cleanest Energy

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France Sees Germany’s Nuclear Shutdown as a Cautionary Tale

Before coming to power, French President Emmanuel Macron endorsed a plan to reduce France’s reliance on nuclear to 50 per cent of electricity generation by 2025 from the current 75 percent.

This reduction in nuclear would be replaced by wind and solar, according to people who were supportive of the plan.

French President Emmanuel Macron

For nuclear energy supporters around the world, France’s high percentage of nuclear (along with Ontario’s) is often pointed to as an example of how to properly and rapidly decarbonize a grid. So, France moving away from nuclear was seen as a moral defeat.

Fast forward almost a year later, and Macron has done a major reversal on his promise that has largely gone unnoticed on this side of the Atlantic.

As recently as August, French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot, formerly a famous journalist and environmental activist before joining Macron’s cabinet, had proclaimed that France would close up to 17 of its 58 reactors to meet the 50 per cent target by 2025.

In 2015, the previous government of Francois Hollande had voted an energy transition to reduce nuclear to 50 percent by 2025 but had taken no steps towards closing any reactors. Hulot’s comments signified that Macron would take action.

But the backtracking from the Macron government came quickly when Hulot said in November that trying to meet the 2025 target, as Reuters reported, “would increase France’s CO2 emissions, endanger the security of power supply and put jobs at risk.”

Then in late December, Macron himself said the 2025 target was not realistic, said he would not follow  Germany’s example of phasing out nuclear because he wanted to cut carbon emissions and shut down coal.

“I don’t idolize nuclear energy at all. But I think you have to pick your battle. My priority in France, Europe and internationally is CO2 emissions and (global) warming,” he said in a TV interview.

 

“What did the Germans do when they shut all their nuclear in one go? They developed a lot of renewables but they also massively reopened thermal and coal. They worsened their CO2 footprint, it wasn’t good for the planet. So, I won’t do that.”

“Nuclear is not bad for carbon emissions, it’s even the most carbon-free way to produce electricity with renewables,” Macron added.

Macron’s turn around on nuclear shows that, to be serious about fighting climate change, one needs all the tools in the toolbox to be available.

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Nuclear Science: Addressing Marine Pollution

The International Marine Organization (IMO) recently imposed new regulations to limit the amount of sulphur used in the fuel of cargo ships by 2020. The limit will decrease the amount of sulfur used in fuel oil from 3.5% to 0.5% within the next 2 years, stating that the new regulations will “significantly reduce the amount of sulphur oxide emanating from ships and should have major health and environmental benefits for the world, particularly for populations living close to ports and coasts.”

When it comes to monitoring the oceans for contaminants, nuclear and isotopic techniques provide a unique source of information for identifying nuclear and non-nuclear contaminants and tracing their pathways in the environment, as well as for investigating their biological effects.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has worked for decades in this field with various United Nations environmental organization.

“To assist Member States in addressing coastal and marine pollution, the IAEA has developed a number of science-based tools and techniques that help decision-makers protect the marine environment,” according to the IAEA. “The Agency maintains environment laboratories in Monaco and Seibersdorf, Austria, that use nuclear and isotopic techniques to study pollution processes and fingerprint pollutants’ sources.”

Last year, the IAEA Environment Laboratories in Monaco held training courses for scientists on techniques to measure and monitor pollutants in the marine environment.

Since starting a collaboration with UN Environment in 1986, the IAEA has jointly organized to date 56 training courses and 34 Proficiency Tests with representatives from Mediterranean countries to strengthen pollution monitoring. In addition, 57 recommended methods for the analysis of trace elements and organic pollutants in marine samples were developed, in association with UN Environment and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO).

“Over the past 40 years, the IAEA has jointly conducted 33 extended Quality Assurance missions to check and improve the quality of contaminant analyses, 93 instrument service missions, and installed new instruments for the analysis of contaminants in Mediterranean laboratories,” according to the IAEA.

As an IAEA policy study concluded, “Most major pollution problems facing the marine environment can only be investigated using nuclear and isotopic techniques, which offer the diagnostic and dynamic information needed to identify the source of contamination, its history of accumulation, its  environmental pathways and its impact on the environment.”

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Nuclear Science: A Window to Heart Disease

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, 50,000 Canadians are diagnosed with heart failure every year.  It is estimated that half of all Canadians will be touched by heart failure, costing the health care system close to $3 billion annually. Globally, heart disease is responsible for over 30% of all deaths.

Enter cardiac nuclear medicine.

Instead of performing surgery, doctors, by using small amounts of radioactive material, can look inside the human body to diagnose diseases like heart disease. This noninvasive procedure involves injecting small amounts of radiation and looking at the heart at a molecular level, providing accurate and early diagnosis, which is key to treating and saving lives.

Argentina is increasing investment in nuclear medicine to help patients with cardiovascular disease, as recently highlighted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Through a collaboration between the Argentinean government and the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA), the IAEA is offering up training and equipment in order to provide increased access to nuclear medicine services.

“The multimillion-euro investment involves building six new centres across the country that will offer high-quality nuclear medicine and radiotherapy services. The new centres will be operating in the Argentinean provinces of Río Gallegos, Río Negro, Santiago del Estero, Formosa, Entre Ríos and La Pampa,” according to the IAEA.

There are two different types of tests that can be used to scan the heart. The main difference between the two is the type of radiotracer used. In a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan, positrons work with a tracer to take pictures of a patient’s heart. The pictures can detect blood flow; identify heart attack scars; and even detect if arteries are narrowed.

The second test that relies on nuclear medicine is a SPECT (Single Photo Emission Computed Tomography) scan.  It allows doctors to get a 3D image of a patients heart in order to determine overall heart health, including blood flow; whether or not a patient has had a heart attack; and to diagnose coronary artery disease or a build up of plaque inside the heart’s main arteries.

Investments in early cardiac detection and treatment are key. According to the World Health Organization (WHO); “Ischaemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive lung disease and lower respiratory infections have remained the top killers during the past decade.” In Argentina, it is the leading cause of premature death.

Managing your diet, sleep and even stress levels can all lower a person’s risk for developing heart disease. Early detection can help to identify risks in time for treatment to save lives. Thanks to nuclear medicine this can be done. And before it’s too late.