Nuclear research in Saskatchewan received a big boost Tuesday from the provincial government. The province announced a multi-year agreement to provide funding for the new $30 million Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation.

John Root is the interim director for the CCNI. "Rather than just ship rocks out, why aren't we doing things here in Saskatchewan that add value? Why can't Saskatchewan reclaim its historic leadership position in the nuclear domain? Well, we could."

At the centre, researchers will submit proposals for projects. One area of research the centre will focus on is nuclear medicine. Canada has a $300 million a year medical isotope industry, but right now it's going through a supply shortage. A provincially funded research project is already underway to produce isotopes right here in Saskatchewan.

Rob Norris, the Minister Responsible for Innovation, says the projects are moving full steam ahead. "Our research team has just this past week announced that we have crossed a major threshold. That is the accelerator has arrived."

The accelerator is the machine that produces the isotopes. The research team is setting it up right now, and hopes to start producing the isotopes in the next few months. The research team says this new investment is a potential funding support for future improvements.

"We're very pleased with the progress; we know there is still more to do. This will take another couple of years to see the technology and see the results," says Norris.

The investment isn't just going into nuclear medicine research. In August, the government signed an agreement with Hitachi-Ge to support research into the design of small nuclear reactor technologies.

"We've seen increasing interest in small reactor technology and obviously nuclear safety especially in sight of last March's Fukushima incident, so things like cooling systems and other related technologies are of interest," says Norris.

The research proposals to the centre will be chosen by an arm's length committee of external reviewers. The province hopes the centre will be an important step in re-establishing Saskatchewan's position in the nuclear industry.