Montreal

Isotope production in Que. gets $5M boost

Quebec is poised to become one of Canada's leading producers of medical isotopes after it was announced Monday the federal government has pledged $5 million in funding to the University of Sherbrooke's Advanced Cyclotron Systems Inc.

Quebec is poised to become one of Canada's leading producers of medical isotopes after it was announced Monday the federal government has pledged $5 million in funding to the University of Sherbrooke's Advanced Cyclotron Systems Inc.

It's part of a $35-million federal program to prove Canada doesn't need nuclear reactors to produce isotopes, which are used in medical imaging and play an important role in detecting diseases such as cancer.

The University of Sherbrooke produces sodium fluoride isotopes in a cyclotron. They can be used for bone scans, which account for up to 40 per cent of scans done at a hospital on an average day.

The funding will go towards renovating the university's research equipment and its labs.

Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis said Tuesday the university and the province are brimming with potential.

"They have a lot to show the rest of the country, because in Quebec we are well advanced in the infrastructure [for] these kinds of things," he said.

The rest of the $35 million is going to researchers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.

The investment comes almost two years after the closure of the Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario, a closure that created isotope shortages around the world. The National Research Universal (NRU) reactor resumed operations last August but is scheduled to close by 2016.

The Conservative government has ruled out building a new reactor, and said it would find other ways to make isotopes.

The National Research Council is backing the projects in the five provinces, and said the new methods do not require a nuclear reactor or weapons-grade uranium.

"It's a system by which you're not using uranium as your fuel or your target to produce your medical isotope. Instead, you're basically radiating small coin-sized discs to produce the isotopes in question," Raphael Galea, a research officer with the council, said in an interview from Ottawa.

With files from The Canadian Press

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