Canadian Manufacturing

Harvesting of medical isotope completed at Pickering nuclear generating station

Approximately 50% of the world's Cobalt-60 is produced in Ontario

October 30, 2020  by CM Staff

Life saving medical isotope harvested at OPG’s Pickering Nuclear Facility. (CNW Group/Ontario Power Generation Inc.)

TORONTO — Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) Pickering Nuclear Generating Station has completed the harvest of Cobalt-60, a medical isotope that is a key line of defence in global efforts to safeguard public health.

Cobalt-60 is used to sterilize approximately 40% of the world’s single-use medical devices, including syringes, gloves, implants, surgical instruments and COVID-19 testing swabs. It is also used to reduce harmful pathogens in a variety of food and consumer products. Approximately 50% of the world’s Cobalt-60 is produced in Ontario. The isotope extracted from a single Pickering reactor every 24 to 30 months can yield enough Cobalt-60 to sterilize approximately 3.5 billion syringes per harvest. With three Pickering reactors equipped to produce Cobalt-60, there are one to two harvests per year.

“Now more than ever there is a growing demand for this life-saving medical isotope as the world continues to battle with the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ken Hartwick, OPG’s president and CEO, in a prepared statement. “Thanks to the meticulous work of the team at Pickering, OPG is a world leader in the production of Cobalt-60, helping Ontarians, our economy and people around the world.”

“I’m proud that OPG and Ontario continue to lead the way in isotope production: our province produces 50 per cent of the global supply of Cobalt-60 used to irradiate and sterilize medical devices,” said Greg Rickford, minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines. “This work could not be more critical as we continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Congratulations on another successful harvest.”