Category Archives: CNA2015


Radiopharmaceuticals and Disease Diagnosis

Nuclear medicine, already well-established in cancer diagnostics and treatment, has started to play a role in other diseases, like Alzheimer’s.

Doctors are using medications that contain radioactive materials so they can get an inside look at how your body operates. Patients receive these radiopharmaceuticals by injection, or by inhaling or swallowing the medication.


As oncologist Sandy McEwan explains, “It circulates and binds at the site of the target and then we measure the distribution of the injection in space or time to understand what changes or functions are occurring.”

Dr. McEwan is a professor and chair of the department of oncology at the University of Alberta’s Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. He is also a member of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the independent nuclear regulator.

Dr. McEwan says advances in nuclear medicine are growing thanks to strong and active research and development.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the use of radiopharmaceuticals to help evaluate patients for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Advances are also being made in other areas such as cancer behaviours, according to Dr. McEwan.

“Tumors tend to use more glucose or sugar than regular cells,” Dr. McEwan says. “Using radiopharmaceuticals, doctors can measure how much glucose is being used by a tumor. The more sugar used by the cancerous cell, the worse the tumor is.”

These new medicines aren’t just used for diagnoses. Their very nature allows doctors to tailor them to individual patients.

“It’s personalized medicine,” says Dr. McEwan. “The right dose of the right drug, at the right time, for the right patient.”


Peeling Back the History of Paintings

McMaster University’s new exhibition, The Unvarnished Truth, highlights the role that nuclear technology plays in exploring the history behind paintings. The exhibition features nine paintings, including works by Van Gogh and Reubens. And art experts are using radiography to explore the paintings’ secrets.


McMaster researcher Brandi Lee MacDonald points to a painting attributed to Peter Paul Reubens. “We were able to tell that it was cut out of an early larger painting, so it leads us to question the history of this object,” she says. “What happened to the rest of it?”

MacDonald, who works in the McMaster’s Department of Applied Radiation Sciences, led the exhibition’s development, bringing together 30 researchers from across continents and disciplines. Over five years, they used a variety of techniques to look at nine paintings – especially the pigments within the paint and to see what is going on beyond the canvas.

“One of the art historians identified the sitter in one of the portraits. Finding out who this person was is rare,” says McMaster professor Fiona McNeill, a member of the research team.

In one example, using a neutron beam, the team inspected the wood beneath the painting, discovering damage and gaining knowledge that will help curators to repair and care for the painting.

“For the Van Gogh painting, there is a different painting underneath the original layer,” says MacDonald. “He is famous for recycling his canvases to save money, and we were able to see features of a previous painting underneath.”

The exhibition will remain at the McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton, Ontario until December 19th From there, it moves next spring to Edmonton, then to Thunder Bay next fall before concluding its tour in early 2017 in Kingston, Ontario.


Nuclear Fun Fact: Bert Brockhouse



WiN Canada – 12th Annual Conference

Women in Nuclear is a worldwide association of individuals, focusing on women, working in various fields of nuclear energy and radiation applications and has a vision of making the public, especially women, aware of the benefits of these applications and of the culture of safety that ensures protection of the public and the environment. In Canada, we have over 1,400 members in all disciplines within the nuclear industry.

I am pleased to announce that the 12th annual WiN Conference is November 8-10, 2015.  The theme of the conference is Linking the Nuclear Family: Past, Present & Future. Delegates will gain a sense of where the industry began, where it is headed and how to flourish in a change environment to better position themselves for future success.

WiNCanadaThe conference takes place on November 8, 9 & 10, 2015.

Sunday, November 8: Program includes social and networking events along with the opening reception at 7:00 pm at the Hilton Garden Inn, Ajax Ontario.

Monday, November 9: Full Day Conference,

  • WiN-Canada AGM
  • Speakers Include:  Angela Mondu – President of ICE Leadership and Author of ‘Hit the Ground Leading’, Jeremy Whitlock – CNA, Dr. Audrey Li – Lakeridge Health, and many others.
  • Panel Discussion:  Communicating the Nuclear Brand
  • Breakout Sessions:  Leadership, Industry Best practices, Science & Technology
  • Door Prizes
  • Networking Dinner and interactive entertainment with a unique beat!

Tuesday, November 10:  Participants will also have the opportunity to sign-up for Technical Tours at Darlington Nuclear Energy Complex (DEC) Reactor Mock-Up and Darlington Learning Center (DLC) Simulator, GE-Hitachi and Rolls-Royce, the Operator Training Facility and Pickering Nuclear In-Station, the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI), the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Energy Research Centre Labs and Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE).

WiN (Women in Nuclear) is a world-wide association of women working professionally in various fields of nuclear energy and radiation applications.  WiN-Canada was formed in early 2004 and has been working to support the objectives of WiN-Global and emphasize and support the role that women can and do have in addressing the general public’s concerns about nuclear energy and the application of radiation and nuclear technology. WiN-Canada also works to provide an opportunity for women to succeed in the industry through initiatives such as mentoring, networking, and personal development opportunities.

WiN-Canada Conference Registration Ends Soon!

Don’t miss your chance to register at



How OPG Stores Nuclear Waste Today

When people visit nuclear power plants, they’re often amazed to see nuclear workers standing right beside containers of used nuclear fuel.

“You can safely stand next to them, knowing the radiation is safely contained,” says Val Bevacqua. He is in charge of used-fuel storage for Ontario Power Generation (OPG), which owns all the Ontario reactors that generate electricity.

What makes them safe? They’re made of concrete more than half a metre thick and lined with steel plate. Each of these large, white bins stands about four metres high and weighs 60 tonnes – empty.

Once the spent fuel goes in, skilled workers weld the container shut, vacuum-dry the interior, pump it full with inert helium, and test rigorously for leaks.

Used fuel is very hot and radioactive. A robot removes the fuel bundles from the reactor and places them in bays that look like swimming pools. Despite the strong radiation, Val says, “just a few metres of water can provide a remarkable protective shield for workers and environment from the radiation.”

After about 10 years, the fuel bundles cool and lose most of their radioactivity. Then, nuclear workers use remote tools to place the fuel in the dry storage containers, which are kept on-site.


OPG employees are the operation’s core strength. They are all highly trained, and kept safe by radiation-protection equipment and dosimeters.

OPG’s used-fuel storage faces regular inspections by regulators, and the inspectors also make surprise visits. The inspectors track every fuel bundle. And they ensure that the storage containers haven’t been tampered with.

Onsite storage has worked well. The containers are safe and secure. But the sites have to be managed and guarded, and the containers won’t last forever. Eventually, Canada intends to store all used fuel underground, at a site with the right geology and a willing host.

Communities that have shown interest in hosting the permanent site are learning more through OPG. “We’re part of the community, and we host a lot of tours,” says Val.

“Tours are an opportunity for communities to see for themselves what is involved in the safe handling of nuclear fuel and how these hazards can be safely handled without risk to the workers, the public, or the environment.”


Where Will Canada’s Spent Fuel Go?

The plan to store nuclear waste underground at a site near Kincardine, Ontario is only for Canada’s low- and intermediate-level waste. It does not include spent fuel – the uranium that has been used in nuclear reactors.

Spent fuel is much more radioactive, and has to be handled with greater care. So, a separate plan is underway to store all of Canada’s spent fuel permanently underground, in a deep geological repository, or DGR.

Science and the community

Spent fuel storage containers at Bruce Nuclear Generating Station
Spent fuel storage containers at Bruce Nuclear Generating Station

Up to 10,000 years will pass before the radioactivity of spent fuel drops below the radioactivity of natural uranium in the ground. So, storage needs careful planning. Fortunately, Canada has many rock formations that have not moved for millions of years. Many parts of Canada also have types of rock, such as granite, that stop radioactive material from seeping through.

Those are scientific reasons for choosing a DGR location. But people will also live and work around the site. It’s essential for those people to understand and accept what is involved. In 2002, the federal government created the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) to find a DGR site and build it.

Under the laws governing the NWMO, getting approval for the site means proving that the DGR project is scientifically sound and accepted by the host community.


The process for selecting a spent-fuel storage site started in 2010. It will take about 10 years to finish. It began with the NWMO providing public information about the process. Then, 21 communities came forward to express interest. The NWMO is assessing those communities, but not all of them have the right geology or enough community support. So, the list has been narrowed to nine communities, all in Ontario.


The NMWO will also consult with nearby communities, and study possible effects of the DGR. The NMWO will then ask communities still on the list to formally decide on whether they agree to host a DGR. The preferred community will then sign an agreement with the NWMO. The agreement will need approval from the federal government.

After the agreement

With a host site selected, the NWMO will first build a “demonstration facility,” then build the DGR itself. Canada will have a place to store its spent fuel permanently. The NWMO will continue to talk with Canadians about the DGR and keep local communities involved.