Category Archives: CNA2016

CNA2016

Celebrating Canada 150: Nuclear Science and Innovation

From the birthplace of Confederation, Charlottetown, to the home of the nation’s capital, Ottawa, the fireworks send off to mark Canada’s 150th birthday is only one in a series of celebrations to acknowledge the storied history of our country. As Canada officially celebrates a century and a half we wanted to look back the contributions that our nuclear scientists have made to our country and beyond.

The latest numbers from the Canadian Cancer Society predict that 2 out of every 5 Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime. While cancer can target people at any age, people over 50 are at the greatest risk for developing some form of cancer. Over the years, numerous advancements have been made in the field of cancer research but the work done by a team of researchers in Saskatoon arguably paved the way for today’s cancer treatments.

Sylvia Fedoruk, a pioneer in the field of medical physics, was the only woman in Canada working in the field in the 1950s. Fedoruk was a member of a University of Saskatchewan team working on cobalt-60 radiation therapy. Under the guidance of Dr. Harold Johns, Fedoruk and others were the first group in Canada to successfully treat a cancer patient using cobalt-60 radiation therapy. Thanks to their pioneering work, over 70 million people around the world have benefited from this type of treatment. In fact, the benefits of cobalt-60 machines go far beyond the Canadian border as cobalt-60 radiation therapy machines have been used all over the world to treat cancer patients.

Building on the early work of scientists, advancements in nuclear medicine include the use of alpha therapies. Through a targeted approach, cancer cells are blasted from the inside out, minimizing the damage to healthy tissues. These alpha-emitting isotopes are thought to be especially effective for people that are dealing with late-stage or metastasized cancers (cancer that has spread from one part of the body to another) and could be the basis for the next wave of cancer treatments.

“It’s a magic bullet for people in the cancer field because it has the beauty of sparing healthy tissues and finding and weeding out tiny tumours,” according to Dr. Tom Ruth, Special Advisor, Emeritus, TRIUMF.

Clean, reliable and sustainable energy is one of the pillars of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Canada’s nuclear industry is a driving force of the economy, contributing over 6 billion dollars to the country and employing over 60,000 people both directly and indirectly.

Our CANDU technology helped spur opportunities for power generation. The Pickering nuclear power plant came on line in 1971 just four years after Douglas Point came online. Ontario was the first province to introduce nuclear into its electrical generation, New Brunswick would soon follow suit in the early 1980s. The efficiency and cleanliness of nuclear allowed Ontario to reduce emissions and provide energy security following the province’s decision to axe coal from electrical generation in 2014, eliminating smog days from the province. It is estimated that thanks to nuclear power production in Ontario alone, 45 million tonnes of carbon is removed from the atmosphere, equal to 10 million cars.

Canada’s history with nuclear generation goes back over half a century ago, when a team of engineers in Montreal developed the first reactor known as the National Research Experimental (NRX) reactor. The NRX, which came on line in 1947, led the way for research into isotopes and positioned Canada as a world leader in supplying the much-needed medical material all over the world ever since.

Communities are at the very core of the nuclear industry and you don’t need to look further than Cameco to see the positive impacts that community partnerships have. For over twenty-five years, Cameco Corporation has partnered with communities across Northern Saskatchewan as the largest private employer of First Nations and Metis people in Canada.

“More or less our community can have a future. Because of our young populations we need to be more sustaining and more certain, and this is one of the things that industry has brought to us, a lot of hope,” states Mike Natomagnan, the mayor of Pinehouse Lake and a former Cameco worker.

Canada’s nuclear industry continues to serve as a model for leadership, using science to find solutions to real world challenges. Our commitment to sustainable development and economic well-being is equal to our commitment to research and innovation. Powering the next generation of space travel is just one of the missions that Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is investing in.

A partnership between Technical Solutions Management (TSM), Ontario Power Generation (OPG), Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) would support and augment the Department of Energy’s program to renew the production of Pu-238, allowing scientists to continue their exploration of our solar system and beyond.

“Our hope is to land a contract to expand the amount of Pu-238 that is available for space exploration,” stated Glen Elliott, Director, Business Development, Ontario Power Generation.

If approved, within five years, we could be ready to power future space ventures with Pu-238 partially produced in Canada. The concept would rely on a commercial reactor to produce the necessary isotope, specifically OPG’s Darlington reactor.

The future of nuclear science will continue to explore ocean health and the ecosystems that are vital to our food chain thanks to research and work with isotopes. Dr. Sherwood Lollar was recently appointed to the Order of Canada for her work in geochemistry looking at the movement of groundwater and tracking environmental contaminants.

Through innovation, we will welcome the next generation of reactors. These include SNC-Lavalin’s Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor (AFCR) which takes the used fuel from light water reactors and repurposes it as new fuel for the CANDU, thus effectively recycling an important energy-rich waste stream, while reducing considerably the volume of CANDU reactor waste. The AFCR may shortly see the light of day in China.

The next generation also includes the development of small modular reactors (SMRs), ensuring an energy future that allows for healthier communities, removing diesel from the energy mix, continuing to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions and opening the door to cut carbon from the transportation sector through the development of hydrogen fuels. The heat potential locked in future reactors could provide opportunities for community agriculture production in the form of greenhouses, affording people healthier food regardless of where they live.

Our commitment to science and research holds the promise of continued advancements and leadership in health, the environment and energy. As we look back on the first 150 years of investments in nuclear science and technology, we are excited to see what the next 150 will bring and we are confident it will continue to build on a better tomorrow and a stronger Canada for all of us.

CNA2016

When Seconds Count

Strokes.

They happen when the blood that is circulating within the brain is cut off or reduced in an area resulting in a loss of oxygen to that part of the brain. If not treated right away the brain can die.

Thanks to nuclear medicine, doctors can better assess and treat stroke patients, saving lives.

With a stroke, every second counts.  Neurons or nerve cells are lost at a rate of 1.9 million per minute when the brain is deprived of oxygen. The loss of these and other key brain transmitters, or synapses leads to accelerated aging in the brain.

uhn

(Chart Courtesy of Dr. Timo Krings, Head of Neuroradiology, Joint Department of Medical Imaging, Toronto Western Hospital & University Health Network)

Dramatic treatment is required to save a patient’s life, everything has to move rapidly.

“2:00am: I was called for a stroke at the hospital. By 2:20 the team was at the hospital and by 2:40 we had removed the blood clot and the patient was off the operating table,” states Dr. Timo Krings, Head of Neuroradiology, University Health Network, Toronto Western Hospital.

From initial imaging to opening the blocked blood vessel and restoring blood flow happens in just a matter of minutes.

The proper diagnosis and successful treatment of strokes is thanks to a branch of Radiology known as Interventional Neuroradiology.

Interventional radiology involves a uses modern Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging or Computed Tomography to identify where the blockage is within the brain and its size.

As Dr. Krings points out, imaging plays a major role in proper diagnosis and treatment.

“The imaging part is just as important because if we choose the wrong patient we can make things worse,” he explains. “If we open a vessel that was occluded for too long, l the dead brain won’t recover but the patient can be in danger because blood will rush to the dead brain, which can lead to a hemorrhage. Therefore the correct identification of right patients is as important as the treatment itself.”

Once the scan identifies a suitable patient, the treatment can begin.

Interventional Neuroradiology involves a minimally invasive procedure whereby an artery is punctured and small tubes known as catheters are placed into the blood vessels. In these small tubes, doctors can push in stents or devices into the blood vessels in order to treat the blood vessel from the inside out.

Symptoms you may be having a stroke: FAST

Face: Drooping eyelid or numbness on one side of your face. Vertigo or a whirling loss of balance

Arm: Unable to move your hand or arm on one side of your body

Speech: You can’t speak properly or speech is garbled

Time: Time is of essence and you should telephone 9-1-1 , if you think you may be having a stroke call 9-1-1

Dr. Krings points to a chain of stroke awareness and treatment. Beginning with the patient to be able to identify the symptoms of a stroke to emergency medical service (EMS) workers who can rapidly identify and take patients to stroke centers where emergency room (ER) teams can fast track patients into imaging.

“It’s a team effort between the patient, EMS, the ER doctor, neurologist, radiologist, dietician and rehab specialists. All of them have to play together to get the best outcome,” says Krings.

New Canadian guidelines call for the two pronged technique of imaging and interventional radiology as the best life-saving method to for the diagnosis and treatment of strokes.

 

CNA2016

Fighting Food Insecurity

Nuclear technology steps up to meet a huge challenge.

The world needs more food and lots of it. According to the World Bank, in order to meet growing global demands we must produce 50% more food by 2050.

At the same time, expanding populations and climate change threaten our ability to meet these goals. A recent report by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) stated that, “as temperatures rise, crops will increasingly experience temperatures above the optimum for their reproductive development, and animal production of meat or dairy products will be impacted by temperature extremes.”Branch of an apricot tree with ripe fruits

Enter the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In order to produce more food under challenging environmental conditions and with less available land, scientists from the IAEA are working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN to find solutions to food insecurity.

One solution is the Nuclear Techniques in Agriculture program, a way to address food shortages through, “using radiation induced mutation, mutation detection and pre-breeding technologies.” Exposing plants to small doses of radiation can make them more resistant to disease and climate change.

One of the foods being targeted by this program is quinoa. This gluten free grain, common to the Andean people, is known as a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. Because of its genetic diversity, quinoa is able to be grown under different environmental conditions, making it an appealing crop to grow; almost 100 countries currently harvest it.

Food irradiation can also help to kill potentially deadly bacteria and the use of isotopes can help to measure resource levels such as the health of soil and water storage within the land, providing farmers with important information on the health of their resources so that they can more effectively use their land to yield greater harvests.

As part of addressing food security issues, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is using its sterile insect technique (SIT) to help Mauritius fight back against fruit flies. Fruit flies, native to Southeast Asia, attack a variety of much-needed produce including bananas, mangos, eggplant and squash. In a release by the IAEA in mid-June the Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security for Mauritius addressed the magnitude of the problem.

“160 million Mauritian Rupees-over 4 million Euros-are lost annually as a result of the damage caused by fruit flies,” according to Mahen Kumar Seeruttun, Minister of Agro-Industry.

Being able to save crops and produce more bountiful harvests means the ability to address starvation and provide much needed nutrients. Today, it is estimated that 2 billion people live with food insecurity and that one in eight are starving, highlighting the importance of these nuclear initiatives. From hunger to hope, technology can help to fight back and feed those who are most in need.

 

CNA2016

Combatting Climate Change with Nuclear Power

As May came to a close, the AtomExpo began in Moscow, the opening address focused largely on meeting  climate goals laid out at COP21 in Paris in December. And the key message was clear: Nuclear power is needed in order for the world to combat climate change.

How is this so?

Environment and Climate Change Canada has projected that by 2030, Canada’s GHG emissions will be two-thirds higher than previously thought.

Canada’s new government is committed to the climate fight.  Minister Catherine McKenna agreed with other nations to try to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, slightly below the prior 2 degree target.

With the global population rising, it is clear that in order for the world to meet its climate targets; where we get our energy from will be of the utmost importance.  A lower GHG economy in all likelihood will have an integrated energy mix, blending low-carbon sources to supply the needs of consumers while protecting the environment.

A government report in 2012 shows that over 22 years the rates of carbon dioxide that have entered the atmosphere have risen by 47 per cent. China and the United States were the largest contributors to GHG emissions, while Canada accounted for 1.6%.

The rise in climate inducing gases further highlights the critical importance of moving away from higher emitting energy sources. Just how many climate warming gases are produced in order to get the energy to power our lights, fridges and hot water tanks, is best assessed through lifecycle emissions.

The lifecycle emissions of a given energy source include all of the greenhouse gases produced in both the construction and operation of an energy plant as well as the emissions required to turn a natural resource, such as uranium, coal or gas, into energy in that plant.sUPPLYCHAIN

According to recent information from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), nuclear is one of the cleanest and lowest GHG producing forms of energy.

co2This means that nuclear power has huge potential to help address the global climate challenge.  Earlier this year, NRCAN outlined some of the major benefits of the Canadian nuclear industry. Canada is home to the largest high-grade uranium deposits in the world. Our CANDU technology meets the highest safety and regulatory standards. At the same time, the nuclear industry continues to provide opportunities for other countries to step away from more GHG intensive energy sources and move towards a cleaner, lower-carbon society.

CNA2016

Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI)

It is the largest environmental remediation effort and the first of its kind in Canada. A massive clean-up and restoration is underway an hour and a half east of Toronto along the shore of Lake Ontario in the community of Port Hope.

tree

During the depression, there was a high demand for uranium ore. It meant money and jobs. The community of Port Hope was selected as the location to refine the ore that was shipped in from the North West Territories.  The rock was mined primarily for its usefulness in the field of medicine, for X-rays and cancer treatments. However, the knowledge about radium, chemical contamination and environmental impacts wasn’t well known in the 1930s.PortHope2

“Knowledge was different back then,” says Glenn Case, senior technical advisor with the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI). “The depression was on and there was a thirst for radium. Now there are radioactive elements in the soil and chemical contamination associated with the old ore from 1932-1954.”

From his home in Port Hope, Case talks frankly about the problems caused by the ore refining process during the Great Depression. He knows the project well, because his involvement with the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI) began almost 40 years ago, after his graduation.

In 1976, Case was hired to work in Port Hope on a two-month assignment addressing the situation of low-level waste found in properties in the area, fragments of uranium left in the soil. He has been part of the team responsible for developing a solution to removing the contamination.

Well known to the energy industry, the President at Women in Nuclear-Canada and a senior program manager for Bruce Power, Heather Kleb has spent 20 years working on environmental assessments and she was the lead for the PHAI environmental assessment.

“The PHAI is a big project with big expectations, 600,000 cubic meters of soil to be properly disposed of it took almost a decade to complete the regulatory approvals,” says Kleb.

“We needed to do comprehensive studies. We have knowledgeable communities because industry is here and there are ongoing consultations,” says Kleb. “Because it’s a nuclear project you also have to get approvals from the CNSC following the environmental assessment.”

PortHope1Today the project is fully underway with an expected completion date sometime in 2022. For the community of Port Hope the harbor and ravines once cleaned up will be able to be enjoyed by the community. Development constraints will also be lifted and a new green space will mark the past as Port Hope looks to the future.

CNA2016

Radioactivity Fighting Cancer

Brachytherapy, or internal radiation, is proving successful in treating certain tumors.

Cancer is very complex. Curing patients without causing side effects means that the treatments must be very targeted.

BrachytherapyMen“Not all cancers are the same,” according to Dr. Michael Milosevic, a radiation oncologist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto. “Cancer is not one diagnosis. Each individual cancer is different.”

For patients diagnosed with cancer, surgery, radiation treatment and drug treatment (chemotherapy) are frequently used. External radiation, a beam targeted to a tumor that travels to the tumor from outside of the patient’s body comprises 80-90% of radiation therapies.

Brachytherapy, on the other hand, involves inserting the radiation into the center of the tumor and irradiating the cancer cells from the inside out.  The treatment has proven successful in fighting prostate and cervical cancers.

“With brachytherapy, you can kill the cancer but spare the normal surrounding areas,” says Milosevic. “The likelihood of curing the cancer goes way up and the side effects way down.”

There are two methods of using Brachytherapy-temporary and permanent implants

Temporary implants use special catheters inserted into the tumor. They connect to a machine to deliver the radiation treatments. A temporary implant is a day procedure. The radiation is delivered over a very short period of time, usually a few minutes, and then the catheters are removed.

BrachytherapyWomenPermanent implants directly insert small radioactive “seeds,” each about the size of a grain of rice, into the tumor. In the case of prostate cancer treatment, about 100 seeds are placed into the prostate gland, usually when the patient is asleep.  The seeds remain in the prostate gland for the remainder of the patient’s life and give off a continuous flow of radiation that is highest immediately after insertion and declines to zero over a few months.

The uses for brachytherapy continue to develop. It has proven useful in treating some breast, head and neck cancers. Perhaps one of the biggest developments, as Dr. Milosevic points out, is the shift to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre  is home to three MRI units that help to deliver brachytherapy.

“With Brachytherapy you put the radiation in the center of the tumor so you can kill the cancer but spare the normal surrounding areas. The likelihood of curing goes way up and side effects go down.”