Every day, nuclear isotopes, or radioisotopes, are used in millions of applications around the world

We use radioisotopes to advance human life and health through a wide range of applications, including industry and national security, consumer products, sterilization, agriculture, diagnosis, and medical treatment, and for a variety of applications in medicine, chemistry, physics, energy, environmental sciences, and material sciences.

Radioisotopes are critical to serve the broad needs of modern society

Globally, the number of medical procedures involving the use of radioisotopes is growing, with an increasing emphasis on radionuclide therapy for the treatment of cancer.

Canada is a global leader in radioisotope production

It is not only our success story, it is your success story. More than that, it is part of our proud heritage in positively impacting the world.

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Canada's Nuclear Leadership
– A Distinguished History

Did you know that Canada has long been a historical leader in isotope production and has fostered an innovative industry that has saved millions of lives around the world?

It's true. Canada has a long-standing history of innovation in nuclear technology, through cutting-edge nuclear research, and upcoming revolutionary techniques to produce radioisotopes.

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Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine uses radioisotopes to provide diagnostic information about the functioning of a person's specific organs or to treat them. Thanks to Canadian innovation, diagnostic procedures using radioisotopes are now routine worldwide.

Nuclear medicine offers non-invasive imaging of biochemical changes in your body. Radioisotopes can reveal how organs and bodily systems are functioning, not just what they look like, as with X-rays.
,000
times every week that Doctors use isotopes in nuclear imaging to quickly and accurately diagnose illness
+ million
NUCLEAR MEDICINE PROCEDURES ARE PERFORMED EACH YEAR, AND DEMAND FOR RADIOISOTOPES IS INCREASING 5% annually
over ,000
hospitals worldwide use radioisotopes in medicine, and about 90% of the procedures are for diagnoses.
DID YOU KNOW?
Canada’s radioisotopes are produced at Bruce Power, Pickering, AECL, McMaster University, and particle accelerators such as TRIUMF and Canadian Light Source.
Cobalt-60 fuel bay Gamma Knife Sterilized Medical Equipment

Cobalt-60

Canadian scientists were the pioneers in a number of nuclear applications that began with the supply of Cobalt-60 for medical procedures.

Cobalt-60 was originally produced in the NRX reactor at Chalk River through which Canada launched the modern field of nuclear medicine.

On October 27, 1951, the world’s first cancer treatment with Cobalt-60 radiation took place in London, Ontario. This marked an important milestone for both the fight against cancer and Canada’s emergence as a leader in the field of nuclear power.

Canadians revolutionized cancer radiation therapy worldwide, and greatly improved survival rates for people suffering from formerly untreatable cancers, including bladder, prostate, and cervix.

DID YOU KNOW?
With the development of Canadian Cobalt treatment, the cure rate for cervical cancer went from 25% to 75%.

Cobalt-60 is also used for the sterilization of single-use disposable medical devices and supplies, such as syringes, gloves, catheters, drapes and gowns. In addition, it is used for the treatment of food and consumer products.

DID YOU KNOW?
High Specific Activity (HSA) Cobalt is a special radioisotope used worldwide for alternative treatments to traditional brain surgery and radiation therapy through a specialized, non-invasive process. This innovative device uses gamma radiation to focus 200 beams of radiation on a tumour or other target, minimizing damage to healthy tissue.
Chemistry Lab

Canada’s Leadership in Cobalt-60 Radioisotopes

Pioneering Canadian nuclear scientists, in partnership with the Canadian government, and public and private nuclear operators, have been instrumental to the success of the NRU. Canada’s nuclear industry has collaborated to situate Canada at the forefront of the peaceful application of nuclear development since the end of the Second World War

Today, Cobalt-60 accounts for 10 million cancer therapy treatments each year and Cobalt-60 technology is currently used to treat about 70% of the world’s cancer cases treated by radiation.

In addition, more than 40% of all single-use medical devices produced globally are sterilized with Cobalt-60, and more than half of this is provided by Canada.

For over six decades, Canada’s National Research Universal (NRU) has been a significant supplier of HSA Cobalt to the world. As NRU has discontinued its operation, the production of Cobalt has transitioned to Ontario’s Bruce Power as a source of HSA for life-saving operations.

Canada was at the forefront of developing Cobalt-60 technology, and today it continues to supply the majority of the world’s demand. In addition, over half the Cobalt-60 therapy machines and medical sterilizers in the world were built in Canada, treating over half a million patients annually.

Our national program to provide isotopes for medical diagnosis and treatment has been extremely successful and Canada has been the leader in this field for decades.

Positioning Canada to Lead

Innovation is the path to growth. It opens the country to new economic, social, and environmental possibilities. It is essential in shaping our future.

But Canada risks falling behind.

Other countries have made continuing commitments to radioisotopes. With the shutdown of NRU, countries like the United States, Australia, Sweden, and Japan are heavily investing in new, advanced radioisotope production to meet global demand.

Canada can reclaim its leadership role as a global centre for innovation.

Supporting radioisotopes will do more than provide a secure supply of medical isotopes for the welfare of patients worldwide. It will preserve Canada's leadership position in the innovative and increasingly important field of nuclear medicine and sterilization.

A Global Leader

As Canada strives to maintain a leadership position in science and technology, it is critical that we focus on the requirements of today, and also on the advancement of nuclear innovations for tomorrow. To maintain our leadership role, we need to continually invest in our radioisotope industry.

Radioisotopes are the foundation to advance research for improved drug discovery and development. They are also our pathway to personalized medicine - enabling health-care professionals to improve lives through targeted imaging and therapy, thereby providing medical diagnosis and treatment specific to an individual.

We are at the cusp of one of the most exciting developments in our long history. The world has, at its disposal, a life-saving technology. Canada has – and can continue to be – a world leader in this regard. Our government’s priorities on innovation, high-tech development and expanding global trade provides an opportunity to review how we want to proceed with radioisotopes.

The world has come to depend on a commitment that every Canadian government has supported for over 50 years. It is an opportunity for Canadians to maintain our position in a technological area we have already established ourselves as world leaders.

Retaining a secure supply of isotopes and infrastructure in Canada will allow us to maintain a leading position in the development of new nuclear medicine technologies, benefiting both Canadians and the advancement of science. This also fits with the federal government's announced strategy of building up our science and technology capabilities.

Simply put, the world’s seven billion residents need Canadian nuclear research and technology.

Who We Are

The Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council (CNIC) is an independent organization consisting of representatives from various levels within the Canadian health sector, nuclear industry and research bodies, convened specifically to advocate for Canada’s role in the production of the world’s supply of radioisotopes.

Radioisotopes are critical to serve the broad needs of modern society for a variety of applications in the health, energy, and sterilization sector. The CNIC serves as a voice to safeguard the continued availability of radioisotopes, ensuring our public policies are risk-informed, science-based, and support the highest levels of public health and safety. Leveraging Ontario’s nuclear advantage will have a significant positive impact on human health across the globe, keeping the world’s populations clean and safe while expanding Canada’s leadership role in the global community.

Our members include:

  • Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada
  • Bruce Power
  • BWXT
  • Cameco
  • Canadian Association of Nuclear Medicine
  • Canadian Nuclear Association
  • CanProbe / Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
  • Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization
  • Framatome
  • Kinectrics
  • International Irradiation Association
  • Isotopes Technologies
  • Laker Energy
  • NB Power
  • Nordion
  • Ontario Association of Nuclear Medicine
  • Ontario Power Generation
  • Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries
  • SNC Lavalin