Saturday, November 08, 2008

Jules Verne and cancer treatment

[This post is based upon an article by Camille Guillemois in Ouest-France.]

In the novel Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne, there's a character known as Professor Aronnax. Since the celebrated author was born in Nantes in 1828, it's not surprising that a slightly altered spelling of the name of this science-fiction professor, Arronax, has been chosen to designate a technological masterpiece that has recently come into existence in the great coastal city in southern Brittany.

[Click the photo to visit the Arronax website.]

Arronax is a cyclotron that will be used to produce particles for nuclear medicine. It will also be used as a state-of-the-art research tool in this domain. This 140-ton device is not exactly cheap: 37 million euros, of which half came from the local Loire-Atlantique region.

The 70 MeV energy rating of Arronax makes it the most powerful cyclotron in Europe in the domain of nuclear medicine. In fact, it is three or four times more powerful than the vast majority of medical cyclotrons in service throughout the world.

An obvious question that enters the mind concerns the possible dangers of building such a device in a residential zone. Well, medical cyclotrons must not be confused with nuclear reactors. A medical cyclotron produces radiation only when it is operational, but it ceases to do so as soon as it is switched off.

In a national context where nuclear energy is exploited considerably, notably in the electricity domain, this new high-tech device fits nicely into France's rich nuclear culture.

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