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Province gives UBC lab $30 million for isotope research

Project hopes to find new way to produce medical isotopes

The B.C. government is investing $30 million in a subatomic physics lab at the University of British Columbia in a project aimed at improving the future supply of medical isotopes. The provincial money is part of a $63-million project called ARIEL at the TRIUMF lab, where scientists will build a device that will produce intense beams of subatomic particles to create isotopes out of chemical elements.

The TRIUMF lab, which specializes in nuclear and particle physics,  is owned and operated by a consortium of universities from across the country, and is partnered with universities around the world.

Premier Gordon Campbell says the funding will help the lab find a new way to produce medical isotopes, which are used to help detect and treat cancer and heart disease. The isotopes have been in short supply since the Chalk River nuclear reactor in Ontario had to be shut down for repairs last year.

Beyond medical isotopes, the ARIEL project will also allow the lab to study things like fertilizer runoff, making paper mills more efficient and removing pollutants created by coal-fired plants. In addition to the provincial funding, ARIEL is getting $14.4 million from several Canadian universities that support TRIUMF and $17.8 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

The Canadian Press