Canada begins contruction on new isotope production facility

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TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, has begun building a tunnel and lab that will be used to demonstrate new ways to solve medical isotope shortages.

The $62.9-million project is underway at TRIUMF, with $30.7 million provided by the provincial government. By 2015, ARIEL [Advanced Rare IsotopE Laboratory] is expected to demonstrate a new way to produce medical isotopes, which are used to diagnose and treat cancer, heart disease, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

ARIEL features an underground beam tunnel surrounding a next-generation linear accelerator, or e-linac, according to TRIUMF. The e-linac is being designed and built by a 13-university consortium led by the University of Victoria. The team also is collaborating with researchers in India, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K.

The e-linac is projected to produce beams of particles to create isotopes, with differing numbers of neutrons. It will use new technology developed in British Columbia that produces beams up to the equivalent of 5,000 light bulbs concentrated in one square centimeter, the lab said.

Only five organizations have the ability to make them, and one is a partnership between TRIUMF and PAVAC Industries in Richmond.
In addition to the Province's $30.7 million, ARIEL is also being supported by $14.4 million that includes nearly $13 million in federal funding from the National Research Council toward TRIUMF's core operating budget, and contributions from partners in the U.S. and India. China has also expressed interest in investing in developing ARIEL further. In addition, the Canada Foundation for Innovation provided $17.8 million, which will help fund the e-linac portion of the project led by the University of Victoria.