Biological Research Facility

CNL’s Biological Research Facility (BRF) plays a key role in proving and improving the standards for radiation safety and worker protection across the nuclear industry. The BRF conducts radiological research using live biological specimens and cell cultures. Studies involve examining the biosolubility and metabolism of various radioisotopes, including alpha-emitters, relative toxicity of various types of radiation and effects of low dose ionizing radiation through the measurement of DNA damage and repair, chromosomal inversions and immune response.

Its capabilities to support radiation, radionuclide and carcinogen-based testing and experimentation are unique in Canada and North America.

The 1,600 m2 building is a state-of-the-art facility to support animal (rodent) and animal tissue-based research. The facilities within the BRF are environmentally controlled, specific pathogen-free facilities dedicated to biological research including, cell and molecular biology, histology and tissue processing, haermatology, tissue culture and animal procedures.

The radionuclide and chemical carcinogen laboratories area is comprised of a separate seven-room facility with a HEPA-filtered air supply/exhaust and an independent cage washer. There are two laboratories with biological safety cabinets, fumehoods, ashing ovens, tissue oxidizer and liquid scintillation counter. Breathing air supply and respirators are available for all rooms. The animal housing rooms with attached labs contain ventilated racks, each capable of accommodating 70-80 rodent cages. All rooms in this radionuclide facility are licensed to house and use all types of radioactivity.

The BRF houses the Gamma Beam 150C Irradiation Facility (GB-150C). This 30 meter irradiation hall with a variable dose rate cobalt 60 irradiator is used for open beam γ-irradiation as well as irradiating cells in CO2 incubators and animals in cages. The unique length of the irradiation hall makes it possible to deliver a wide range of low doses of radiation at a variety of dose rates. The gamma irradiator currently operates with a Co-60 source with a total activity of 6.5 x 1011 Bq. Dose rates range from 0.003017 mGy/min to 10 mGy/min.

A second irradiator capable of delivering a more extensive range of dose rates with both Co-60 and Cs-137 sources is being installed. Together with the currently operational GB 150C irradiator, the facility will be able to enhance its contribution to the area of radiation research in the Canadian and International scientific communities.

The BRF also has access to two Co-60 gamma cells that have been used in concert with the GB 150C facility. The gamma cells each house a Co-60 source with dose rates of 5.4 Gy/min and 0.114 Gy/min respectively.

The BRF is operated by members of the Radiation Protection Research and Instrumentation Branch at CNL’s Chalk River Laboratories. In addition to the hands-on operation of the facility, branch professionals are able to give expert advice, assistance and support on radiation exposures, use and handling of radioactive materials and chemical carcinogens.

The BRF welcomes research partners interested in studying the biological effects of radiation, or those interested in utilizing the facilities for their projects.