Ontario Power Generation and Bruce Power are working collaboratively with Nordion in order to supply 70% of the world’s Cobalt-60. As of November 2016, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed which provides the framework for the companies to work together to ensure a steady long-term supply of Cobalt-60.
Nordion provides a reliable, long-term, end-to-end Cobalt-60 supply and comprehensive Cobalt-60 support such as assurance of worldwide delivery, emergency response and disposal services to improve the risk profiles and enhance effectiveness of gamma processing operations.
Cobalt-60 fuels gamma processing operations such as plants that sterilize single-use medical devices. In the absence of this radioactive material — produced specifically for this purpose in Bruce Power’s Bruce B reactors and in OPG’s Darlington reactors — gamma sterilization would not be possible on the global scale.
Cobalt is mined like any other mineral. It’s removed from the ground and processed into pure Cobalt-59 powder. Once processed into powder, it’s compressed into slugs, which are coated with nickel. These slugs are then encapsulated and assembled into adjuster rods, which are used to control the reaction in the nuclear reactors, where the cobalt is activated by absorbing neutrons to become Cobalt-60. The rods are in the reactor for a minimum of one year and maximum for 2.5 years.
Bruce Power and OPG harvest the rods during planned maintenance outages on the units. The Cobalt-60 rods are then stored in the secondary fuel bay. The harvested rods are suspended on the bay wall about 14 feet below the surface. From the reactivity mechanism deck over the fuel bay, specialized fuel handlers extract the irradiated rods one at a time, and place them in a shielded flask to be shipped to Nordion’s facility.
Once Bruce Power’s piece of the process is complete and the bundles are received by Nordion, the Cobalt-60 is removed from its encapsulation and welded into a new double-encapsulated source called C-188. It is then shipped to the sites of Nordion’s customers for use in irradiators.
These irradiators are used to eliminate harmful organisms in a variety of products. It is used to sterilize disposable medical supplies including sutures, syringes, surgical gowns and masks. Cobalt-60 is also used to sterilize pharmaceutical wares and cosmetics, and irradiate spices and other consumer products that include fruit, seafood, poultry and red meat.
The C-188 undergoes stringent and sophisticated quality assurance testing. Nordion meets and far exceeds international standards and regulatory requirements, including the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (US NRC), the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), among others. Nordion also holds a special form license for its C-188 sources.
Nordion has been safely, efficiently and reliably shipping C-188 Cobalt-60 sources to customers throughout the world for over 50 years.