Work Begins On World-Class Isotopes Research Tunnel

VANCOUVER – Starting today, the first of 300 B.C. workers begin building a tunnel and lab that will be used to demonstrate new ways to solve medical isotope shortages, keep B.C. and Canada leading in particle and nuclear physics, and create 160 permanent jobs.

The $62.9-million project is underway at TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, with $30.7 million provided by the provincial government. By 2015, ARIEL is expected to demonstrate a new way to produce medical isotopes, which are used to diagnose and treat cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

ARIEL, which stands for Advanced Rare IsotopE Laboratory, features an underground beam tunnel surrounding a next-generation linear accelerator, or e-linac. The e-linac is being designed and built by a 13-university consortium led by the University of Victoria. The team is also collaborating with researchers in India, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K.

The e-linac will produce intense beams of particles to create isotopes, which are variants of atoms of a particular chemical element, with differing numbers of neutrons. It will use new technology developed in B.C. that produces some of the most powerful beams in the world: up to the equivalent of 5,000 light bulbs concentrated in one square centimetre.

Isotopes are made at only a handful of facilities worldwide, and demand is expected to escalate in coming years. ARIEL will allow TRIUMF to broaden its research in studying and producing isotopes. The technology may also be used for such things as reducing pollution from coal-fired plants and producing fertilizers from chimney flue gases.

The heart of the linear accelerator is a superconducting radio frequency cavity, a new and highly efficient technology for accelerating particle beams. Only five groups in the world have the ability to make them, and one is a partnership between TRIUMF and PAVAC Industries in Richmond.

TRIUMF attracts top scientists from around the world to work together on research related to particle and nuclear physics, molecular and materials science, and nuclear medicine. It is owned and operated by a consortium of 17 Canadian universities and is located on the University of B.C.’s Vancouver campus.

In addition to the Province’s $30.7 million, ARIEL is also being supported by $14.4 million that includes nearly $13 million in federal funding from the National Research Council toward TRIUMF’s core operating budget, and contributions from partners in the U.S. and India. China has also expressed interest in investing in developing ARIEL further. In addition, the Canada Foundation for Innovation provided $17.8 million, which will help fund the e-linac portion of the project led by the University of Victoria.


Richard T. Lee, Parliamentary Secretary for Asia-Pacific –
“TRIUMF is a world leader in accelerator technology and isotope production research, and with the Province’s support, ARIEL will build on that success. Working with talent from Canada and our international partners, ARIEL will break new ground in producing isotopes safely and efficiently for medical and environmental applications, while creating and supporting more jobs in British Columbia.”

Mark Strahl, Member of Parliament for Chilliwack – Fraser Canyon, on behalf of Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology) –
“Our government knows that investing in the people and ideas that will produce tomorrow’s breakthroughs will keep Canada’s economy growing. ARIEL will enhance the work undertaken by the talented researchers at TRIUMF and will result in new medical isotopes to help diagnose and treat diseases. The research advancements and knowledge generated by this new facility will, without a doubt, play a pivotal role in advancing knowledge and improving our country’s standard of living and quality of life.”

Howard Brunt, University of Victoria VP Research –
“The University of Victoria is proud to be the lead university for this world-class project. It will have a huge impact on the research productivity of our faculty and students for decades to come, placing UVic, and Canada, at the forefront of innovative science and technology.”

Nigel Lockyer, director of TRIUMF –
“ARIEL is proceeding in several phases, and today marks the beginning of the major construction. Not only is this project a flagship for TRIUMF and B.C., it puts Canada on the global map for cutting-edge and truly relevant science and technology. I am proud of what we’re starting together here.”

Quick Facts:

  • B.C. haulers will remove 17,000 tonnes of dirt and rock from the ARIEL site, while cement trucks will deliver up to 1,000 loads of concrete – enough to build a metre-wide sidewalk from downtown Vancouver almost to Mission.
  • B.C. concrete crews will erect the forms, place the rebar, and do the tricky pouring required to build walls up to 1.8 metres thick to house a linear accelerator (built in B.C.) that will keep Canada at the forefront of isotope research for the next 15 years.
  • B.C. wood will be used wherever possible, as per the Province’s Wood First legislation.
  • At various stages of construction, at least 300 B.C. workers – including surveyors, architects, engineers, electricians, plumbers and carpenters – will swarm over the ARIEL site.
  • By the end of construction, targeted for spring 2013, ARIEL will create 90 person-years of employment for British Columbians. Longer term, ARIEL will lead to 160 spinoff jobs in the private sector, universities and other research agencies.
  • Since 2001, the Province has invested $1.8 billion in research and innovation, including $48.4 million in TRIUMF projects.

Learn More:

The ARIEL project:
The building process:

The UVic backgrounder is attached.

-- 30 --

Click here for the backgrounder.

In this story

Keywords: work, begins, worldclass, isotopes, research, tunnel

Related stories