Canada has a number of research reactors across the country. These reactors, much smaller than the ones used in nuclear power plants, are used to various ends, including scientific research, non-destructive testing and the production of radioactive substances for medical, industrial and scientific uses.
Nuclear research reactors are classified as Class I nuclear facilities. The licensees operating these facilities include universities, private corporations, and government agencies. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regulates all stages of the life of each research reactors in Canada, from the environmental assessment required before construction, to the decommissioning of the facility once operations are ended.
- Chalk River Laboratories (Ontario)
- McMaster Nuclear Reactor (Ontario)
- École Polytechnique (SLOWPOKE-2) (Quebec)
- Saskatchewan Research Council (SLOWPOKE-2)
- University of Alberta (SLOWPOKE-2)
- Royal Military College of Canada (SLOWPOKE-2) (Ontario)
At each stage, the CNSC determines whether the licence applicant is qualified and has taken the required measures to protect the environment, safeguard human health and safety, and ensure that national security is maintained.
Decommissioned research reactorsCanada has several research reactors that have undergone decommissioning over the years: the NRX, ZEEP, PTR reactors at CRL (Chalk, River, ON), SLOWPOKE reactors at Dalhousie University (Halifax, NS), University of Toronto (Toronto, ON), Tunney's Pasture (Ottawa, ON) and MDS Nordion (Kanata,ON), and the WR-1 Organic Cooled Reactor (Pinawa, MB). There are also three research reactors that have been partially commissioned: MAPLE-1 and MAPLE-2 at CRL and a SLOWPOKE at Whiteshell.
The NRX reactor at CRL, Canada's first large-scale research reactor, commenced operation in 1947 and played a major role in developing the CANDU reactor. The reactor was used extensively for the testing of fuels and materials, and for nuclear physics research in support of the Canadian nuclear power program. After approximately 250,000 hours of operating time, the NRX reactor was shut down on January 29, 1992. The reactor is currently in safe storage, waiting final decommissioning. Also at CRL, two MAPLE reactors (Multipurpose Applied Physics Lattice Experiment) were partially commissioned. Major problems led AECL to terminate the project in 2008. Both reactors are in safe storage, waiting final decommissioning.
The WR-1 Organic Cooled Reactor located at Whiteshell Laboratories near Pinawa, MB, began operation in 1965 and operated until 1985. The reactor is currently in safe storage, awaiting final decommissioning. Also at Whiteshell, AECL built and partly commissioned a SLOWPOKE reactor, to demonstrate how the technology could be used for district heating.
Dalhousie University's SLOWPOKE-2 Reactor (DUSR) facility, part of Dalhousie's Trace Analysis Research Centre, was decommissioned in March 2011. The reactor is currently is safe storage, waiting final decommissioning.
In addition to these research reactors, Canada has three partially decommissioned prototype power reactors: Gentilly-1, Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) and Douglas Point.
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