Tag Archives: radon

Uncategorized

Canada 150: Nuclear Science and Your Health

When it comes to health care and medicine, nuclear science had made numerous accomplishments that have improved the lives of millions of people around the world. As Canada celebrates 150 years, we wanted to look back at some of our achievements.

In the late 1800s Dr. Harriet Brooks, Canada’s first nuclear physicist, discovered radon while at McGill University and worked in the lab of Dr. Marie Curie. Her work laid the foundation for nuclear physics and paved a pathway forward for women like Sylvia Fedoruk.

In the mid-1950s, Fedoruk and a team of researchers under the guidance of Dr. Harold Johns, became one of the first groups in Canada (the other was a team from London, Ontario) to successfully treat a cancer patient with cobalt-60 radiation therapy. Today, it is estimated that over 70 million people around the world have benefited from this treatment and cobalt-60 machines are still in use today.

The benefits and applications of cobalt-60 extend far beyond cancer treatments. The ability of cobalt-60 to effectively kill off even the tiniest of potentially harmful microbes makes it the perfect sterilization tool for medical equipment like gloves, gowns, IV bags, syringes and catheters. Medical-grade cobalt or High Specific Activity (HSA) cobalt-60, like the kind used by Feodurk and others, has been a foundation for cancer treatment for over 60 years. A recent partnership between Nordion and Bruce Power will ensure that cobalt-60 continues to be readily available for years to come.

Pioneers in medical isotopes over half a century ago, Canada led the world in the supply of isotopes, contributing to the betterment of global health. Used for the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases and illnesses such as imaging of the brain, lungs, heart and kidney, isotopes have been a key component to the health-care system have helped millions of people every year. The importance of isotopes is increasing. According to a recent report, the global market for nuclear diagnostic medicine is expected to double by 2020. Globally, over 40 million nuclear medicine procedures are performed every year.

Today, in the halls at TRIUMF in Vancouver, scientists are working on the next wave of cancer treatments through the exploration of alpha therapies. Through a targeted approach, cancer cells are blasted from the inside out, minimizing damage to healthy tissues. These alpha-emitting isotopes are thought to be especially effective for dealing with late-state or metastasized cancers (cancer that has spread from one part of the body to another).

In order to develop the necessary tools to diagnose and treat patients, an understanding of how our body functions at the cellular level is key. The community of St. Catharines, Ontario is home to Brock University.  There groups of scientists are looking to unlock the answers to some of the world’s most pressing health challenges by figuring out how our body works by peering inside our cells. Using a neutron beam and a very high-resolution microscope, you can look inside the tissues of cells without doing any damage. Thad Harroun is an Associate Professor at Brock University. He came to Canada in 2003 to work at the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre and has worked on numerous experiments to better understand the interactions inside our bodies. One of his recent projects involves a better understanding of cholesterol.

“We want to know how proteins in our cells interact with cholesterol and fats and we are looking to see how cholesterol supports cell membranes,” he said.

Once thought to be the enemy of our arteries, new research has highlighted the importance of cholesterol to both cellular and lung health. Harroun’s work has also explored the importance of Vitamin E to cellular health.

Leading edge cancer treatments today include Gamma Knife Radiosurgery. Contrary to its name (the procedure isn’t surgery and doesn’t involve a knife) beams of radiation, two-hundred in total, converge on cancerous cells to more effectively kill tumors while protecting surrounding healthy tissues and provides new hope for those dealing with brain tumors and lesions.

Our history with nuclear medicine is a storied and varied. As Canada marks its 150th birthday there are many reasons to be proud of our many achievements that will continue to benefit the lives of people around the world for generations to come.

Uncategorized

Nuclear Fun Fact: Harriet Brooks

Harriet Brooks

Uncategorized

CNA Dispels Uranium Mining Myths

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

The Canadian Nuclear Association had its opportunity to appear before the Quebec Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE), an environmental watchdog that is studying uranium mining in Quebec.

In 2013 the Quebec government announced a moratorium on uranium mining and exploration until the BAPE study on the environmental and social impacts of mining has been completed.

Quebec is one of three Canadian provinces with a uranium moratorium, the others being Nova Scotia and B.C.

The appearance by CNA President John Barrett before the hearings was an opportunity to correct much of the misinformation about uranium mining that has appeared in media coverage surrounding the process.

John Barrett, second from left, testifying before the BAPE.
John Barrett, second from left, testifying before the BAPE.

Most notably, these are myths about uranium mining’s impact on workers health, the local environment and the traditional life of the communities.

“Many uniformed observers readily agree with the allegations raised by nuclear opponents that radiation is inherently dangerous, that radioactive waste presents an intractable threat, and that uranium mining disrupts communities,” Barrett said.

“Does uranium mining interfere with traditional land uses? With the benefit of evidence-based research, it appears that a uranium mine is no more disruptive than any other type of mine.”

Not only is uranium mining no more or less disruptive, it is actually safer than other types of mining due to the heavy regulation because of radiation.

Studies and monitoring show no significant impacts to the health of the public living near uranium mines and mills. Exposure to radiation and radon from uranium mining is very low and does not increase the risk of cancer.

Studies how uranium mining and milling does not increase radon levels away from the mine site. The level of radon near uranium mines is similar to natural background radon levels. Radon exposure to the public is virtually zero.

Currently in Saskatchewan where all of Canada’s uranium mining is located, aboriginal groups are consulted and provide valuable input on identifying valued plants, animals and traditional activities. Aboriginal groups also participate in collecting samples used for environmental monitoring.

In fact, uranium mining corporation Cameco is the largest industrial employer of aboriginal people in Canada.

According to the World Nuclear Association, there are 435 nuclear power reactors operating in 31 countries  around the world. Over 60 power reactors are currently being constructed in 13 countries, notably China, South Korea and Russia.

In all, about 160 power reactors with a total net capacity of some 177,000 MWe are planned and over 320 more are proposed.

China is in the middle of a huge reactor building  spree and wants to raise its capacity to 58 gigawatts (GW) by 2020 from 19 GW now. Chinese think tanks estimate that capacity could rise further to 200 GW by 2030.

The World Nuclear Association has estimated that annual Chinese demand for primary uranium will rise tenfold by 2030, which would put it at around 40,000 tonnes.

Zhou Zhenxing, the chairman of China’s CGN Uranium Resources, recently told a Beijing industry conference that his company was planning to invest in mines in Canada to meet the future demand.

“Canada’s uranium reserves are among the largest in the world and we hope to cooperate with Canadian enterprises to complete the mission,” he said.

The long-term picture is pretty clear:  More uranium will be needed globally and Quebec could benefit from exploration and mining.