Medicine, Materials, Energy and Environment

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Backgrounder - Summary of Projects, Winter 2013 Call

Developing new ways to use medical isotopes for the diagnosis and treatment of cancers and other diseases in humans and animals, designing more robust materials for nuclear power plants and the long-term storage of nuclear waste, measuring greenhouse gas emissions in the uranium industry, and understanding how people communicate and receive scientific information are just some of the topics that will share over $2 million in funding from the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation.

Eleven projects, led by researchers from the University of Saskatchewan, were selected from proposals received by the Fedoruk Centre during a call for proposals last February. These projects support development in the Fedoruk Centre’s four impact areas: nuclear medicine, nuclear techniques for materials research, nuclear energy and safety, and the physical environmental and social aspects of nuclear development.

Nuclear Medicine

Chemical and Enzymatic Synthesis of Novel Medical Imaging Probes

  • Project Leader: Prof. David Palmer, Department of Chemistry, University of Saskatchewan
  • Co-Investigators: Dr. Ed Krol, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, U of S; Dr. Chris Phenix, Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute
  • Partner: Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre

The project involves the synthesis of new nuclear imaging agents based on natural products and novel components of cell membranes with the goal of detecting tumours and understanding how tumours take up these compounds. In partnership with the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute, trainees will learn the principles and techniques of working with radioisotopes used in PET imaging and apply these skills with the probes they develop, bringing that expertise back to Saskatchewan.

 

Targeted molecular imaging and therapy of insulin growth factor type 1 (IGF-1R) positive cancers

  • Project Leader: Dr. Humphrey Fonge, Department of Medical Imaging, U of S
  • Co-investigators: Dr. R. Geyer, Department of Biochemistry, U of S; Dr. Xionqin Dai, AECL
  • Partners: AECL, RUH Foundation

Molecular imaging using medical isotopes offers a reliable and quantitative way to identify receptor proteins that are overactive in cancer cells, providing physicians with information that enables them to target therapies to a patient’s specific disease and monitor changes in the cancer over time. This results in improved patient care and savings in healthcare costs.

 

Domestic Animal Models for Human Disease: Developing Nuclear Technologies for Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Project Leader: Dr. Baljit Singh, Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM)
  • Co-investigators: Dr. Paul Babyn and Dr. Carl Wesolowski, Department of Medical Imaging,         U of S;
  • Dr. James Montgomery, Small Animal Clinical Sciences, WCVM; Dr. Jaswant Singh, Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, WCVM; Dr. Liz Snead,  Small Animal Clinical Sciences, WCVM.
  • Partner: Saskatoon Telus Motorcycle Ride for Dad

There is a growing awareness that the lack of relevant animal models of human disease is hindering progress in discovering new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent human disease. This project is a series of interlinked medical and veterinary studies to develop and use new nuclear probes to diagnose prostate cancer, kidney disease and endometriosis.

 Synchrotron-Based Imaging as a Stable Platform for the Study of Bone-Seeking Radionuclides

  • Project Leader: Prof. David Cooper, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, U of S
  • Co-investigator: Dr. Michael Doschak, University of Alberta

Nearly half of all cancer cases spread to bones and treatment of these secondary tumours can be difficult. Drugs using radioactive isotopes of elements that are readily absorbed by bones have been developed to provide targeted irradiation of bone tumours – although they are at the moment largely limited to palliative care. A challenge with these treatments is tracking the distribution, localization and decay of these drugs within the body and determining the radiation dose delivered. The project will use synchrotron-based imaging technology to measure the uptake of non-radioactive forms of elements commonly employed in these therapies, shedding light on developing better treatments for bone cancer.

Feasibility Studies on Production of Short-Lived Radioisotopes Using a Dense Plasma Focus for PET

  • Project Leader: Prof. Chijin Xiao, Department of Physics and Engineering Physics, U of S
  • Co-Investigator: Prof. Akira Hirose, Department of Physics and Engineering Physics, U of S
  • Partner: Plasmionique Inc.

This project aims to develop a simple and cost effective technology for the production of short-lived medical isotopes for positron emission tomography, used to more accurately detect cancer and other diseases. Currently these isotopes are produced using research reactors or cyclotrons. Using the expertise and equipment at the U of S Plasma Physics Laboratory, the research team aims to develop a new method of producing medical isotopes using a device based on nuclear fusion research.

Nuclear Techniques for Materials Research

Prediction of Structural Transformation of Properties of Inconel X-750 Related to Helium Formation

  • Project Leader: Prof. Jerzy Szpunar, Department of Mechanical Engineering, U of S
  • Co-Investigators: Dr. Michael Bradley, Dr. Barbara Szpunar, U of S
  • Partner: CANDU Owners Group

Some components inside nuclear reactors are made out of nickel-based alloys. Radiation produced in a nuclear reactor can affect the nickel, producing helium that can make the alloy brittle and lead to component failure. This project seeks to understand this helium formation and find ways to improve the alloys to reduce the possibility of embrittlement.

Nuclear Energy and Safety Systems

An Integrated Approach to Nuclear Materials Selection for the Advanced High-Temperature Reactor

  • Project Leader: Prof. Chary Rangacharyulu, Department of Physics and Engineering Physics, U of S
  • Co-Investigator: Dr. Jerzy Szpunar
  • Partner: AECL

Proposed advanced nuclear reactors will operate at higher temperatures than current designs in order to enhance their efficiency. The selection of materials to cover the nuclear fuel rods is a common design challenge, as materials traditionally used in fuel bundles cannot be used in the higher temperature environments of these new reactors. This project will evaluate materials that can be used as fuel cladding in next generation reactors, focusing on the Canadian Super-Critical Water-cooled Reactor.

Environment

Molecular Simulation Studies of Nuclear Waste Materials

  • Project Leader: Prof. Richard Bowles, Department of Chemistry, U of S
  • Partner: Compute Canada

Being able to store nuclear waste materials safely for hundreds to tens of thousands of years is one of the most significant challenges facing the nuclear industry and rates as one of the greatest public concerns regarding the development of new nuclear power stations. Ultra-stable glasses are a newly discovered class of materials that may be ideal candidates for waste storage because they have properties similar to glasses that are thousands of years old. This project will use computer-based molecular simulations to examine how ultra-stable glasses are formed and what gives rise to their surprising stability – an essential material property needed for the safe long-term storage of nuclear waste.

 Evidence and Nuclear Policy in Saskatchewan

  • Project Leader: Dr. Loleen Berdahl, Department of Political Studies, U of S
  • Co-Investigators: Scott Bell, Department of Geography, U of S; Dr. Maureen Bourassa, Edwards School of Business, U of S
  • Partners: AECL, Carson Centre, The Spatial Initiative

The communication gaps between evidence producers (primarily scientists and social scientists working in academia or industry) and evidence consumers (policy officials, industry officials and the general public) create a barrier for evidence-informed policy debate and policymaking on nuclear-related issues. This project seeks to expand understanding of and develop practical strategies for the communication of policy-relevant evidence, assessing how people understand and consume evidence and how evidence producers can best communicate evidence relevant to nuclear policy.

Probabilistic Risk Assessment of Groundwater Flow and Contaminant Transport

  • Project Leader: Dr. Grant Ferguson, Department of Civil and Geological Engineering, U of S
  • Co-Investigators: Dr. Andrew Ireson, Dr. Matthew Lindsay, Global Institute for Water Security, U of S
  • Partner: AECL

This project focuses on the development of improved models of groundwater flow through long-term waste storage sites, using data from Waste Management Area F (WMA F), used to store contaminated soil at Chalk River Laboratories. Understanding how trace contaminants can move with groundwater will lead to better capabilities for assessing and managing risks at active and legacy mine sites and waste storage areas.

Lifecycle Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Mining and Milling of Uranium in Saskatchewan

  • Project Leader: Dr. Gordon Sparks, Department of Civil and Geological Engineering, U of S
  • Co-Investigator: Dr. Cameron McNaughton, Golder Associates Ltd.
  • Partners: AREVA, Cameco

 The purpose of the proposed study is to determine the total greenhouse gas emissions created as a result of mining and milling of uranium ore in Saskatchewan to produce yellowcake. The results of the proposed study will enable comparative analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the mining and milling of uranium in Saskatchewan to GHG emissions produced from the mining and milling of uranium in other jurisdictions.

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Established in December 2011, the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation aims to place Saskatchewan among global leaders in nuclear research, development and training through investment in partnerships with academia and industry for maximum societal and economic benefit. Working with Saskatchewan-based research leaders, our investments are intended to enable the acquisition, generation and interpretation of knowledge in the nuclear domain in the areas of nuclear medicine, materials research with nuclear methods, energy and safety engineering including small reactors, and managing the risks and benefits of nuclear technology for society and our environment. The Fedoruk Centre is funded by Innovation Saskatchewan as an independent, not-for-profit subsidiary of the University of Saskatchewan. www.fedorukcentre.ca.

For more information contact:

Matthew Dalzell
Communications Officer
Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation
Phone: (306) 966-3379 Cell: (306) 280-6245
matthew.dalzell@usask.ca