Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is pleased to share the news that 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