One of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals publishes CNL paper announcing a new non-proliferation methodology

Chalk River, ON – June 07, 2019 – Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology organization, is pleased to announce that Nature Communications has published a CNL scientific paper which discusses an innovative new use of neutron detectors for nuclear reactor monitoring and safeguards. CNL recently filed a patent to protect the technology, which has the potential to serve as a new tool for the independent verification of nuclear reactor activities, helping to deter the spread of illicit nuclear materials.

A multidisciplinary journal dedicated to publishing high-quality research in a number of different scientific fields, Nature Communications is one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world. Authored by CNL employees Bryan van der Ende, Liqian Li, David Godin and Bhaskar Sur, the paper presents results of a research project exploring an innovative use of neutrons to detect changes in the fuel of a nuclear reactor. This could have important applications in nuclear safeguards and non-proliferation applications to help verify that nuclear facilities are not misused and nuclear material not diverted from peaceful uses. There are also important applications for small modular reactors, since this technique would enable the monitoring of the content of sealed reactor cores proposed in some designs.

“CNL’s research demonstrates that neutron detectors have the capability to serve as a viable, economical and effective complement to current reactor monitoring technologies, and we’re thrilled that such a well-respected journal has published our results,” explained Kathy McCarthy, Vice-President of Science and Technology at CNL. “While work is ongoing to more thoroughly explore the potential use of this technology, we believe this discovery has real-world applications that could benefit nuclear monitoring agencies and regulatory bodies around the world.”

Entitled “Stand-off nuclear reactor monitoring with neutron detectors for safeguards and non-proliferation applications,” the paper was based on a research project that was funded through the Government of Canada’s Federal Nuclear Science and Technology Work Plan, administered by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL). CNL scientists were able to monitor neutrons over large distances and significant reactor shielding, capturing important data. “We are excited to see the research acknowledged by the international community and the opportunities that it may provide to enhance the safety and security of reactor technologies,” commented Shannon Quinn, Vice President, Science and Technology and Commercial Oversight at AECL.

The project was carried out under CNL’s strategic initiative in nuclear detection, forensics and response. Through work in this area, CNL serves as a resource for government agencies and commercial partners to develop, test, calibrate and validate nuclear forensics, non-proliferation and security technologies and materials.

“We are very pleased with the results of this project, and have concluded that this approach to reactor monitoring may offer a more practical and cost-effective solution than what is currently in use,” added Bryan van der Ende, a research and development scientist in CNL’s Applied Physics group. “We have presented the results at a number of conferences discussing non-proliferation and safeguards technology, and the feedback has been very positive. Given this response, the patent, and the Nature Communications publication, we believe there’s a bright future for this promising methodology.”

For more information on CNL, including its work to enhance nuclear safety and security, please visit To view the scientific paper, please visit

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