OPG and its venture arm, Canadian Nuclear Partners, will be seeking approvals to participate in a project to produce isotopes in support of deep space exploration.
Under the agreement, OPG would help create isotopes at Darlington used to fuel space probes. This is a very exciting project. No pursuit pushes the boundaries of our scientific and technical limits like space travel. We are proud to play a part - however small - in this most noble of human endeavours.
OPG's Pickering station employs a similar isotope process to create Cobalt 60 for use in the sterilization of surgical and medical supplies.
All deep space exploration projects are powered by plutonium 238 (Pu 238). These include the Voyager 1 and 2 (both launched in 1977 and now in interstellar space); the Curiosity Rover currently on Mars; and the Mars 2020 Rover.
* Plutonium 238 is an isotope of plutonium. However, Pu 238 cannot sustain a nuclear reaction and therefore cannot be used as a fuel in a nuclear reactor or in a nuclear weapon. Production at the Darlington station will help boost a dwindling global supply of the material.
* Plutonium 238 emits steady heat due to its natural radioactive decay. The heat generated decreases slowly in a highly predictable manner and can be harnessed into electric energy onboard a space ship. In addition, the heat keeps scientific instruments warm enough to function in space.
OPG is seeking approvals to have isotope production begin by 2020. As always, we will keep you informed on the approvals process, as we move along. If you'd like more information or have any questions.
Corporate Relations and Communications Manager - Darlington Nuclear
office: (905) 697-7443 or 1-800-263-8009 x7443