For 75 years, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories has been at the forefront of innovation in nuclear medicine, radiopharmaceuticals, and low dose radiation research. In the 1950’s we launched the medical isotope industry that revolutionized the way we treat modern diseases. We lead the world in the production of Cobalt-60 and Molydenum-99 — both crucial radiopharmaceuticals in our collective effort to save lives, fight disease and beat cancer.
Together, we’ve changed the lives of millions of people around the world.
And now, we are about to do it again.
National Research Experimental Reactor (NRX) goes online. The first shipment of a medical isotope, Cerium 144, was shipped to the University of Saskatchewan three months after the NRX started.
I-131 production started in NRX
Routine production of iodine 131 for pharmaceutical use along with carbon 14, phosphorous 32 and sulfur 35 for R&D.
CRL begins to supply Co-60 to industry.
Routine C-14 production commences.
World’s first megavoltage cancer treatment was delivered with an external beam radiotherapy system, Eldorado A, developed by and using cobalt 60 from Chalk River.
Montreal General Hospital requests permit to use I-131 in localization of brain tumours
Routine Ir-192 production in NRX
National Research Universal Reactor (NRU), a multi-purpose research reactor goes online at Chalk River Laboratories.
Gammacell self-contained research irradiator introduced.
Mobile production irradiator cobalt 60 production irradiator used to illustrate the benefits for food irradiation.
First cobalt 60 industrial sterilization facility to sterilize medical supplies.
The start-up of the world's first commercial food irradiation facility in Mont St. Hillaire, Quebec.
NRX starts producing I-125.
NRU starts producing I-125.
First Molybdenum 99 produced in NRU. NRU would produce enough Mo-99 for over 400 million scans.
First Molybdenum 99 produced in NRX.
Kanata cobalt processing facilities open.
Routine shipments of CRL irradiated Mo-99 targets to Tunney’s Pasture.
Chalk River Laboratories begins large scale production of Molybdenum-99. This mission would go on to service the global healthcare market for over 50 years. Steadily delivering 30-40% of worldwide demand, at its peak as much as 80%.
CRL Mo-99 processing facility commissioned.
Team with TRIUMF to produce iodine 123; the same facilities will go on to produce palladium 103, strontium 82, thallium 201, indium 111, gadolinium 67 and cobalt 57 in the subsequent two years
Xenon-133 production begin as a by-product of AECL’s Molybdenum-99 operation
Trial Sm-153 irradiation/production in NRU
First cyclotron-produced isotopes shipped from Vancouver facilities.
Kanata (future Nordion) isotope processing facilities open
First to develop Xenon-133 as a medical isotope.
Canadian Irradiation Centre opens in Laval for demonstration and training
Nordion Europe created with the acquisition of Belgium manufacturing facility.
Commercial Products Division is renamed Nordion Inc.
Therasphere production commences in NRU.
Yttrium-90 Theraspheres are approved by Health and Welfare Canada for general use.
Creating jobs and new companies, AECL completes its most successful commercial spinoff, Nordion, sale to MDS Inc.
The division which produced Cobalt 60 external beam therapy systems and radiotherapy computerized treatment planning systems was sold to MDS Nordion.
Biological Research Facility, a globally unique low dose radiation animal research facility is commissioned.
Biological Research Facility advances use of radiation and isotopes by demonstrating low dose gamma radiation reduces tumor latency times in mice.
Biological Research Facility develops use of low-dose radiation to enhance the performance of stem cells.
Biological Research Facility contributes to pre-clinical and toxicology studies for use of next generation isotopes like Ac-225 and Lu-177.
CNL and TRIUMF organize the 11th Targeted-Alpha-Therapy Symposium in Ottawa, Canada.
Developing next generation isotope production, CNL begins commercial sale of Actinium 225 while the Biological Research Facility contributes to pre-clinical and toxicology studies for use of next generation isotopes like Ac-225 and Lu-177.
(Pending) The Biological Research Facilities at CNL receives GLP certification.
This work includes production of a promising new weapon in the fight against cancer – Actinium-225 – a radioisotope so rare that the annual global production amounts to less than a single grain of sand. In targeted alpha therapies, the Actinium 225 isotope is attached to an antibody, which then locks on to the antigen on the cancer cell. When the isotope decays, it emits high-energy alpha particles that kill the cancer cell by shattering its DNA. The healthy cells nearby are unharmed by this process.
Our work in this area enables CNL and others around to world to carry out the critical trials and research needed to make this promising new medicine into a real possibility.
Our work at CNL with actinium-225 is two-fold: we’ve launched a production program to produce larger quantities of this isotope enabling further research and testing, but we’re also conducting foundational research to help accelerate the development of medical applications that can truly unlock its potential.
CNL maintains diverse capabilities in areas of health and dosimetry services, including animal studies, isotope production and processing, targeted radionuclide therapies, ISO-accredited Analytical Chemistry services and waste management solutions. CNL is committed to improving the health of the world’s population through its work in the Health sector.
CNL’s Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) is a leader in the industry; a full service nuclear laboratory with the capability to perform cutting-edge pharmaceutical development, along with a wide range of radiochemical analyses. CNL’s health sciences facilities are staffed by an expert multi-discipline team of researchers and technologists.
To learn more about CNL’s capabilities and facilities, please select one of the below areas:
Canada has a long history of leadership in nuclear medicine. As a world leader in the production of medical isotopes, CNL is experienced in producing medical radioisotopes at a commercial scale, manufacturing and irradiating targets, separating isotopes, and managing waste. In parallel, CNL has unique capabilities in conducting pre-clinical studies and understanding the effects of radiation and radionuclides on living things.
CNL aims to become a strong player in the international R&D efforts around, and a key supplier of, alpha-emitting isotopes. Research activities have been underway for decades, though an international scarcity of key nuclides for this research severely restricts clinical trials, which delays the deployment of effective treatments.
CNL has the necessary expertise in isotope separation, experience in scale-up of processing and handling radionuclides, as well as specialized facilities capable of safely processing alpha-emitting isotopes.