Although known for its advanced power plant technologies, GE’s nuclear business also has more than five decades of experience working with radioisotopes for medical and industrial applications. Now GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy — the global nuclear alliance created by the two companies in 2007 — and Exelon Generation Company have entered into a landmark partnership that will help meet growing global demand for the critical radioisotope cobalt-60, which is used in millions of cancer treatments each year.
In the U.S., the radioisotope is only produced in small amounts in national labs, rather than on a large, commercial scale. However, the International Irradiation Association estimates that 15 million cancer treatments are carried out using cobalt-60 each year in hospitals and clinics in over 80 countries. More than 500,000 brain cancer treatments have been performed using cobalt-60. In addition to cancer treatment, cobalt-60 is used to preserve food, decontaminate packaging materials, sanitize cosmetics and purify pharmaceuticals. More than 40 percent of U.S.-manufactured medical devices, including syringes and bandages, are cleaned and/or sterilized using cobalt-60.
Regulators have approved the use of GEH technology at Exelon Nuclear’s Clinton Power Station in Dewitt County, Ill. By using Exelon’s existing power-generating reactors, it eliminates the need and costs associated with building new research reactors. Learn more about the cancer treatment isotope.
Elsewhere in the nuclear arena, Global Nuclear Fuel — which is a GE-led joint venture with Hitachi and Toshiba — just marked its 10th anniversary this week as a supplier of nuclear fuel and services for the power industry. GNF has fabricated 1.5 billion nuclear fuel pellets since the joint venture was created in 2000 — enough to power the equivalent of 300 million typical U.S. homes.
Each year, GNF makes more than 1 million uranium pellets the size of pencil erasers. The pellets are packed in assemblies of long, zirconium-alloy tubes, and these fuel assemblies are shipped around the world to nuclear power plants. There, they are installed in the reactor core to create steam that engages a turbine generator to produce electricity. A single pellet contains as much energy as 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, 1,780 pounds of coal or 149 gallons of oil, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. Learn more about the 10-year anniversary.
Also this week, GE signed a multi-year services and maintenance agreement worth up to $146 million with Nuclearelectrica, Romania’s state-owned nuclear utility. The new eight-year agreement covers full maintenance and repair services for the GE steam turbine-generators and auxiliary equipment at Cernavoda Units 1 and 2, which produce more than 1,400 megawatts of power for Romania’s electricity grid. GE’s agreement replaces and expands upon a previous four-year contract with Nuclearelectrica for Unit 1 that recently expired. The service agreement follows several other recent GE projects in Romania, including the supply of equipment for the Fantanele and Cogelac wind farms and the Petrom Combined-Cycle Power Plant. Learn more about the servicing deal in Romania.
* Read “GE moving forward with production of radioactive isotope for medicine”
* Read “New GE Hitachi deal could help fight cancer”
* Read “Clinton nuclear plant chosen for radioisotope pilot project”
* Read “Up and atom: GE’s nuclear design hits key milestone” on GE Reports
* Read “Three coal, nuclear, & wind experts walk into a room…” on GE Reports
* Learn more about GE’s nuclear business
* Read about our latest line of reactor technology