Canada is an Isotope Superpower

On the CNIC’s 3rd birthday we highlight why the isotope sector is key contributor to economic recovery.

The importance of nuclear medicine and medical isotopes in our daily lives — and Canada’s global leadership position in this sector — admittedly flies under the radar for most people, and their significance has never been more vital than in this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Regular production of radioisotopes first began in Canada in 1947, and since then, application of these life-saving innovations has only expanded.  From treating cancers and other diseases, to the sterilization of single-use medical devices, medical isotopes save lives every day and protect health care workers around the world.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, our national isotope sector has been critical. Canada produces 40 per cent of the global supply of Cobalt-60, which is used around the world to sterilize billions of medical gloves and swabs. Given the high demand for sterile PPE during the pandemic, there’s been a global increase in the use of Cobalt-60 for irradiation – the process which makes Cobalt-60 is a highly effective and safe way to sterilize large volumes of materials. While other sterilization methods take between 7-14 days before products are available for use, irradiation technology powered by Cobalt-60 ensures these materials are processed within a day.  And as Canada and the world roll out COVID-19 vaccinations, Cobalt-60 can also be used to sterilize vial stoppers and seals, disposable process equipment for pharmaceutical manufacturing and lab equipment.

Canada has a unique position that is recognized internationally: it is the world’s largest supplier of several isotopes, it is renowned around the world for developing new applications, and it hosts all of its  supply chain partners within its borders within  a long tradition in supply chain collaboration. The growing demand for isotopes presents a strong opportunity to expand and cement Canada’s leadership position in this innovative industry.

The Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council (CNIC) recognizes the opportunity presented by continued Canadian leadership in isotope development and continues to advocate for a National Strategy to lead the global medical isotope charge. Developing a Pan-Canadian strategy which integrates and supports Canada’s leading role in the supply, distribution and development of isotopes for medical and industrial applications, and – addresses inter-provincial barriers to further leverage Canada’s leadership position in this sector.

By leveraging existing infrastructure, creating redundancy in supply, and supporting Canada’s isotope industry by developing policies and a strategy that aim to foster competitiveness. This supports the promotion and development of isotopes both for export and to be used in fighting cancer, Canada can solidify itself as an isotope superpower.

CNIC continue to work with Canada to designate the supply of isotopes as a key element of strategic national infrastructure for domestic and international use. A national isotope strategy can cement Canada’s superpower status in much the same way.

As demonstrated in the work and the success stories of the CNIC and its many partners, Canada can succeed with a focused strategy that prioritizes investment by using an evidence informed, expert driven, targeted and collaborative approach.

At CNIC, we believe the “build it and they will come” mantra applies when it comes to medical isotope infrastructure development. Investments and planning can support the many companies that make up the CNIC      to create and foster an entire ecosystem of innovation and medical treatment here at home. This strategy helps, create and sustain jobs, while bolstering Canada’s reputation as a world leader in the research, development, and production of medical isotopes and pharmaceuticals.

The CNIC stands ready to work with the government to ensure we truly maximize Canada’s superpower potential and continue to improve healthcare around the world.

About the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council

The CNIC is a coalition of science, health care and nuclear sector organizations to ensure Canada remains a world leader in the production of life-saving isotopes by bringing awareness and supporting long-term policies at the domestic and international level that will save countless lives and support health-care innovation for decades to come. To learn more about the CNIC visit and follow us on, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

For more information, please contact:

Andrew Thiele
Strategist, Government and Stakeholder Relations – Corporate Affairs
Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council