Fact or Fiction: Cyclotrons - CNSC Online

Fact or Fiction: Cyclotrons

Fact or Fiction

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Fact or Fiction

Ready…Set…Accelerate!

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A cyclotron is a kind of particle accelerator.

A cyclotron uses electric fields to accelerate a stream of charged particles to high energies along a spiral pathway between the poles of a large magnet.

Fact or Fiction

You fuel, you train, you push

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Cyclotrons used to make medical radioisotopes use nuclear fuel.

Like X-ray machines, cyclotrons run on electrical power and can be turned on or off. They use magnetic and electric fields to accelerate charged particles, which are then used to change the atomic structure of target atoms, making them radioactive. No nuclear fuel is used in the operation of the cyclotron.

Fact or Fiction

Welcome to our mass production facility

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A cyclotron can produce a variety of different isotopes.

By controlling many factors, such as the speed of the particles and the composition of the target material, scientists can use cyclotrons to produce a variety of isotopes with different applications in medical diagnosis and treatment.

Fact or Fiction

Come one, come all. See our cyclotron

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The world’s largest cyclotron is Canadian.

The TRIUMF Cyclotron, located on the campus of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, has an diameter of almost 20 meters and is the world’s largest cyclotron. It is used by nearly a thousand national and international researchers every year to do research in particle physics, nuclear physics, medicine, and materials science.

Fact or Fiction

What I do have is a very diverse set of skills

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A cyclotron only makes isotopes.

Cyclotrons can also be used for research in nuclear physics, particle physics and many other areas. One facility in Canada uses the cyclotron’s proton beam to directly treat eye cancers.

Fact or Fiction

Approved for human trials?

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Short-lived radioisotopes can be used on humans.

Pharmaceuticals and compounds tagged with radioisotopes that remain radioactive for only a short period are used for research and for medical diagnostics. Fluorine 18 is the commonly used cyclotron produced radioisotope used in diagnostic medicine. Doctors use it to diagnose cancers and to track patient’s response to treatment. Radio-labeled compounds also find use in research and diagnostics related to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, etc. Research studies in the functioning of the human brain also use radio-labeled compounds.

Fact or Fiction

Licence and regulations please…

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Because a cyclotron contains no radioactive sources, it does not need to be licensed by the CNSC.

Cyclotrons do not need any radioactive sources to function, but because they can be used to produce radioactive substances, all cyclotron facilities in Canada are regulated and licensed by the CNSC and must follow the same strict rules and procedures as any other nuclear facility.

Fact or Fiction

Shields up!

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Cyclotrons always have built-in radiation shielding.

Cyclotrons can be unshielded or self-shielded. Unshielded cyclotrons must be installed in facilities that have enough shielding so that the workers and the public can work outside safely. These rooms must also have built in interlocks and safety systems to prevent accidental exposure of persons. Self-shielded cyclotrons have shielding incorporated into their design and can usually be situated in rooms with less shielding and fewer safety systems.

Fact or Fiction

Shields up gentlemen, we’re going in!

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Self-shielded cyclotrons can be housed anywhere in a hospital or clinic.

All cyclotrons are housed in specially shielded vaults that are equipped with alarms, emergency stop buttons, radiation monitors, and interlocked doors. Even though self-shielded cyclotrons are designed to run safely with operators in the vault, appropriate shielding and safety systems are required by the CNSC.

Fact or Fiction

Can’t touch this

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Radioisotopes made in a cyclotron are carried directly by hand from the cyclotron to the locations in the hospital where they are to be used.

Newly created radioisotopes are moved by remote control through shielded transfer lines to shielded “hot cells” in the radiochemistry lab, where they are processed into radiopharmaceuticals. These compounds are then put into shielded containers prior to being transported to where they are to be used. For hospital based cyclotrons, this may be as simple as putting the shielded containers on a cart and taking them down the hall. Alternatively, they may be shipped in special “transport packages” to the hospitals or clinics where they are needed.

Fact or Fiction

It’s getting hot in here…

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“Hot cells” are radioactive waste produced by the cyclotron.

Hot cells are large, sealed boxes with lead and steel shielding that are used to contain radioisotopes safely while they are being processed into radiopharmaceutical drugs. Operators use remote manipulators to handle the radioisotopes and are able to see what they are working on through leaded glass windows in the hot cell wall.

Fact or Fiction

Quality is not an act. It is a habit

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A sample of each batch of radiopharmaceutical produced is quality tested.

Quality control plays an important part in ensuring the safety of patients undergoing treatment. Each batch is lab tested before use. Positron emitting radiopharmaceuticals are regulated under Health Canada’s Food and Drug regulations. Facilities used for the manufacture of radiopharmaceuticals for injection into humans have to be designed and operated in strict accordance with Health Canada’s Good Manufacturing Practices guidelines to ensure quality throughout its manufacturing process.

Fact or Fiction

Eagle eyes

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Radiation is not monitored outside the cyclotron vault.

Besides the monitors inside the vault, fixed radiation monitors may be located inside the hot cells or in the exhaust ducts of the hot cells, in the main ventilation stack, or within the radiopharmaceutical processing labs. Portable “contamination” monitors are used to check work surfaces and hand and foot contamination meters at all lab access points are used to ensure there is no spread of radioactive material. Radiation surveys are also performed outside of the shielded cyclotron room to ensure that the shielding is sufficient to protect people in adjacent areas.

Fact or Fiction

What’s that smell?

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Cyclotron facilities emit dangerous amounts of radioactive gasses.

The cyclotron, labs, and hot cells have special ventilation systems with high efficiency particulate air filters and built in safety systems to trap radioactive gases in the event of any unusual release. Very small amounts of very short lived radioactive gas may occasionally be released as part of normal operations, but these present no risk to the public or the environment.

Fact or Fiction

Handle with care

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Cyclotrons produce nuclear waste like a reactor.

Radioactive waste produced by a cyclotron is typically short-lived and is held in shielded cabinets or pits until the radioactivity has decayed to safe levels. It is then disposed of as normal waste.

Fact or Fiction: Cyclotrons

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