Ontario invests $6.8 million to expand McMaster’s nuclear capacity

The 2023 provincial budget includes new funding to expand McMaster’s leadership in nuclear research, education and medical isotope production.

The Ontario government announced $6.8 million in today’s budget to strengthen the research capacity at the McMaster Nuclear Reactor (MNR), a leading supplier of medical isotopes used in breakthrough cancer treatments.

The investment, spread over three years, is part of the University’s $25 million project to optimize operations of the nuclear reactor to 24 hours a day, five days per week, and increase the diversity and amount of isotopes produced.

MNR is Canada’s largest nuclear research reactor. For over six decades, it has advanced discoveries in nuclear medicine, clean energy, nuclear safety, materials and environmental science while producing, processing and distributing medical isotopes for the treatment of approximately 70,000 cancer patients every year.

MNR’s expanded capacity will increase medical isotope production to support the growing demand for radioisotope-based therapies across the globe. A leading supplier of two medical isotopes used to treat cancer – Iodine-125 and Holmium-166 – MNR is uniquely equipped to design, develop and bring to market new reactor-based medical isotope technologies.

The added capacity will also enable more research in clean energy and small modular reactors (SMRs) and increase access to scarce neutron beam time for Canada’s world-leading materials science programs.

Dave Tucker, McMaster’s assistant vice-president, research (nuclear) says the investment will help drive the province’s economy and improve healthcare for Ontarians and beyond.

“The province is a critical partner in MNR’s transition to a higher operating profile, which will increase the number of neutrons we make available for medical isotope, materials science and clean energy research. This funding will also allow us to increase our medical isotope production capacity and create more jobs in this field to ensure Ontarians have earlier access to advanced cancer therapies produced at our reactor,” says Tucker.

McMaster is a hub for nuclear excellence and innovation, with spin-out companies such as Fusion Pharmaceuticals employing scientists and technicians who research and manufacture radiopharmaceuticals for clinical trials. Along with its world-class nuclear facilities and research, McMaster is home to unique education programs in nuclear science.

McMaster President David Farrar welcomes  the province’s investment in McMaster’s nuclear programs.

“The impact of this investment has far-reaching health and economic benefits for Ontarians,” he says.

“As Canada’s nuclear university, we are committed to advancing nuclear medicine, developing life-saving treatments and creating high-paying jobs in this important field.”