Government of Canada contracts CNL for project that will extend operating life of research reactor by another 30 years

Chalk River, ON – July 04, 2019 – Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology organization, is pleased to announce that it has been awarded an $8.5 million contract by the Government of Canada to refuel the Royal Military College of Canada’s (RMC) SLOWPOKE-2 nuclear reactor. The SLOWPOKE-2 is a low-power, self-regulating reactor that produces neutrons for scientific research. It is used solely for professional development and academic research, including nuclear and radiological forensic expertise, and rapid response capabilities for environmental and nuclear emergencies, primarily by the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces.

Under terms of the contract, CNL will remove the old reactor core from the federally-owned nuclear reactor, commission the reactor with a newly fabricated core that is being manufactured at CNL’s Chalk River Laboratories campus, and transfer of the spent core to a licensed nuclear waste management facility. The project will take nearly three years to complete and will extend the life of the 34 year old reactor by another 30 years.

“As the original inventors of the SLOWPOKE reactor design and the only organization licensed to maintain the facility here in Canada, CNL is well-positioned to lead this complex refuelling project,” commented Mark Lesinski, CNL President and CEO. “In recent years, CNL has successfully delivered projects to conduct both a SLOWPOKE core conversion, as well as reactor decommissioning and removal. We have a skilled team in reactor physics and fuels to support the refuelling and commissioning phases, and all the necessary environmental remediation and radiation protection expertise to ensure the project is conducted safely.”

Since the SLOWPOKE-2 reactor came online in 1985, it has been an essential tool for educating RMC students, military officers, faculty, and scholars from across the country, performing neutron radiography and activation analysis, and helping to position Canada as a global leader in nuclear science and technology. Today, students and researchers make use of the reactor every year, for education and research that further supports the activities and operations of the Canadian Armed Forces, Department of National Defence, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Royal Canadian Air Force, Canadian Special Operations Forces Command and the Navy’s Directorate of Nuclear Safety.

Developed by CNL in the late 1960s, the Safe Low-Power Kritical Experiment (SLOWPOKE) reactor is a low-power, compact core reactor technology that was designed for neutron activation analysis, trace radioisotope production and as a tool for teaching nuclear science and engineering. It is the only reactor in the world considered safe enough to be licensed for unattended operation. Eight SLOWPOKE reactors have been supplied by CNL to universities and research centres across Canada and in Jamaica, three of which are still in operation today.

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Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is a world leader in nuclear science and technology offering unique capabilities and solutions across a wide range of industries. Actively involved with industry-driven research and development in nuclear, transportation, clean technology, energy, defence, security and life sciences, we provide solutions to keep these sectors competitive internationally. With ongoing investments in new facilities and a focused mandate, CNL is well positioned for the future. A new performance standard reinforced with a strong safety culture underscores every activity.

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Patrick Quinn
Director, Corporate Communications
CNL, 1-866-886-2325