Bruce Power completes second harvest of Cobalt-60

Harvested Cobalt-60 to be used to sterilize key medical equipment worldwide. (Photo provided by Steve McAllister, Communications Specialist, Corporate Affairs, Bruce Power)

Bruce Power has completed its second harvest of Cobalt-60 this year.

Ottawa Based Nordion will process the medical isotopes which will be used to sterilize medical equipment in the fight against COVID-19. It will be distributed over the next several weeks for use in Gamma irradiation to sterilize medical devices, such as single-use gowns, surgical gloves, scalpels, syringes and other critical health care equipment.

“Bruce Power has always been proud of our role in supporting the global health care community, by providing life-saving medical isotopes around the world,” said Mike Rencheck, Bruce Power’s president and CEO. “This year, more than ever, the role Bruce Power plays in keeping our hospitals and healthcare workers safe has been front and centre. Canada is a leader in isotope production among the international health care community, and that’s being reinforced at this unprecedented time as the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Ontario’s supply of Cobalt-60 has been critical through 2020 to quickly sterilize supplies ensuring more supplies can get out to the front-line health care workers and hospitals, even as demand for these items has increased.  Gamma irradiation technology can process such materials within a day, while other sterilization methods take up to seven days before products are available for use.  In fact, Bruce Power’s Cobalt-60 helps to sterilize 40 per cent of the world’s single-use medical equipment.  The latest harvest means that Bruce Power will have provided the world with enough isotopes to sterilize between 20-25 billion pairs of gloves or COVID-19 swabs.

Lisa Thompson, MPP for Huron-Bruce and Minister of Government and Consumer Services, spoke on the importance of coming together in the fight against COVID-19.

“I applaud Bruce Power for its leadership in our communities in this battle against COVID-19, and for its continued safe operations throughout the pandemic in powering our homes and businesses,” said Minister Thompson. “Ontario businesses have always stepped up to the plate, and Bruce Power is a shining example of how an innovative company in southwestern Ontario can make a positive impact locally, provincially and globally.”

The program manager of Isotopes and business development, Maia Ingram, said Bruce Power is creating an isotope production system to increase their capability.

“We’ve partnered with McMaster University, Isogen, and BWXT, at exploring the potential for feasibility in of what those next generation of isotopes look like. We’ve also been involved with the nuclear innovation institute, looking at next-generation nuclear, but also what that mean’s for the medical community, “she said.

“Canada has shown the world that we are leaders when it comes to sustainable, reliable, and scalable isotope production,” said Scongack. “The knowledge and expertise held by Bruce Power and the province’s innovative nuclear industry in the area of medical isotopes will benefit people requiring health care both here at home and around the world. The world looks to Canada to continue its position as vanguards of isotope and nuclear innovation.”

The Cobalt-60 harvest announced today occurred during Bruce Power’s Unit 8 outage, a part of the ongoing Life-Extension Program which will help the site operate through 2064.