Bruce Power does more than just provide 30% of Ontario’s electricity – it also keeps people safe when they visit the hospital.
Bruce Power teams up with Nordion to provide a reliable supply of Cobalt-60, which is used to sterilize 40% of the world’s single-use medical devices, 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.
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 nuclear 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 Bruce Power’s 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 harvests the rods during planned maintenance outages on the units. The Cobalt-60 rods are then stored in Bruce Power’s 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, Bruce Power’s 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.