Tag Archives: nuclear research

CNA2015

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.

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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.

Uncategorized

NRU is the Key to Canadian Nuclear Science and Innovation

The NRU reactor
The National Research Universal (NRU) reactor at Chalk River.

An advanced engineering and manufacturing economy – particularly one that values national autonomy and security – derives good value from having a nuclear research capability. The core of such a capability is a research reactor.

Canada has this capacity in the National Research Universal reactor (NRU), located in Chalk River, Ontario and operated by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, formerly AECL. But it will lose this capacity when the reactor shuts down as planned by March 31, 2018.

The NRU, a high-capability research reactor, is the core in a Canada-wide nuclear research and development infrastructure. It underpins CANDU reactor technology used in nuclear power plants, and supports many life-enhancing applications in as medicine, crop science, and food safety.

The NRU is a strategic training infrastructure. It develops the human capital Canada needs to maintain its international credibility on nuclear energy, non-proliferation, safety and security policies. This expertise includes having the means to regulate nuclear activities and provide for the safety and security of our citizens.

Innovation involving the NRU is already occurring in a number of key areas, such as advanced reactor fuels – a key selling point for CANDU reactors in countries such as the UK and China; and improved safety margins – which is a national security imperative for Canada both at home and abroad.

Innovation is greatly stimulated where there are crucibles or clusters of research and development, even if small, in a specific geographical area. In the nuclear field there are key R&D clusters around Chalk River Laboratories, the Sylvia Fedoruk Centre for Nuclear Innovation in Saskatoon, and southern Ontario.

Together these, plus research facilities at more than a dozen universities, and major scientific facilities such as British Columbia’s TRIUMF and Saskatchewan’s Canadian Light Source (CLS), make up Canada’s “nuclear eco-system”. In southern Ontario, the cluster includes engineering, manufacturing and construction companies that build and maintain the infrastructure for nuclear power generation as well as nuclear R&D.

But the NRU also has a role, practically as well as symbolically, for the success of Canada’s foreign policy, national security, and global markets action plan.

Canada owns the CANDU reactor technology used by seven countries. We have recognized expertise in all areas of the nuclear fuel cycle, from the mining and milling of uranium to the fabrication of advanced fuels to decommissioning and waste management. We bring high safety and security norms to the world. We have a proliferation-resistant reactor design based on natural uranium, not enriched fuel.

The NRU supports operating power reactors in Canada, particularly in life extension. It provides the special conditions that allow testing, experimentation and problem-solving, essential in dealing with aging reactor components. High radioactive environments are necessary to replicate reactor conditions. The NRU provides these, but not just for Canadian-based CANDU reactors.

Uncategorized

Nuclear Imaging Revolutionizes Breast Cancer Research

Editorial - Breast cancerInnovative nuclear research may soon be able to tell in advance whether breast-cancer patients require specific hormone treatments – a breakthrough that could save a lot of time and money.

Scientists at the University of Saskatchewan, supported by the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation  is exploring whether radiopharmaceuticals can identify cancers associated with HER2, a protein that promotes cancer-cell growth.

HER2-positive breast cancers are less responsive than other cancer types to hormone treatment. Drugs like trastuzumab (Herceptin) and  lapatinib (Tykerb) are effective but costly. Other treatments get used first – and may not work.

The Fedoruk research, if successful, would help doctors to identify HER2-positive cancer more readily and to prescribe effective treatment – saving time, money and lives.

Dr. Humphrey Fonge, an adjunct professor in the Department of Medical Imaging at the University of Saskatchewan, is leading the research that will better identify the protein, or biomarkers, on therapy-resistant cells, like HER2.

“When a patient goes to a clinic, they would get injected with a radiopharmaceutical that would more accurately tell which protein is responsible for that cancer and that would allow the physician to more accurately determine treatment to a particular drug rather than a one-size-fits-all method,” he said.

The research is still in the animal-testing phase. Humphrey estimates it will take a “few years” before it goes to Health Canada for approval.

“It’s going to be revolutionary. It will save a lot of costs. If a patient goes to a clinic and is treated with a $70,000 drug and they don’t respond to drug, that’s a loss of $70,000.”

Not only will the imaging agent help to determine which drug therapy should be used, but it will also be able to monitor how patients respond to that therapy.

Neil Alexander, executive director of the Saskatoon-based Fedoruk Centre, said nuclear imaging is helping in cancer research as well in the fields of heart and brain research.

He calls it an area of expertise the Fedoruk Centre is developing through the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences, which is leading to “great breakthroughs around the world.”

“The developments that are taking place in nuclear imaging will mean that our children will not be as terrified of diseases like cancer as we were because we will know so much more about them,” he said.

“Our ability to image them will give us that much more data both about the processes that cause cancer and how we can disrupt them and the ways that we can then treat them in order to minimize their consequences.”

Alexander said a large part of modern life would not be possible but for the development of innovative nuclear technology.

“The industry is hugely broad based and the innovations have led to the foundations of modern society,” he said.

Nuclear Energy Nuclear R&D

An Integral Part of Today’s Technologies

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

A business-school professor made an interesting remark to me recently. “Nuclear technology let itself get branded from the start, in the 1940s, as being unique and special,” he said. “But that may have hurt the technology. It helped your critics to argue that nuclear is uniquely and specially dangerous. From there, it was easy to say that nuclear needed uniquely, specially restrictive rules around it – or even to say that there’s no safe amount of nuclear, period.”

He’s right. And we could spend a while discussing his point.

But there’s another way in which nuclear’s perceived uniqueness-and-specialness hurts our industry: It makes it easy to  imagine that nuclear companies, facilities and professionals are hidden away somewhere in isolated shiny silos that don’t interact with, or affect, the rest of our economy.

The figure below shatters that image. It was made by the consultancy SECOR to illustrate some (in fact, just a few) of the working linkages between this country’s nuclear-related public research facilities and other industry sectors.

Some Linkages Between Public Nuclear S&T Facilities and Other Industry Sectors
Some linkages between public nuclear science and technology facilities and other industry sectors (CNBC= Canadian Neutron Beam Centre, CLS=Canadian Light Source, SRC= Saskatchewan Research Council, UNB= University of New Brunswick).

Keep in mind that this web of linkages was never fully drawn (data from several important universities did not get included).  And that it does not include research facilities in industry organizations like Ontario Power Generation, Kinectrics-Candesco, and many other CNA member companies that have intimate working relationships with non-nuclear industries.

Nuclear is an integral part of today’s technologies, from crops and livestock to jet engines. CNA made this and other points this month in a submission to the federal government’s Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy Consultation. Our submission also looks at the economic case for public research infrastructure, whether in telecommunications, defence, agriculture, or nuclear. Check it out here.