Overwhelming support for new reactor

05 August 2009

Scientists and legislators in Saskatchewan have proposed to the Canadian federal government that a new research reactor is built in the province. The submission came with 20 letters of support from industry and academia.


At a cost of C$500-C$750 million, said the University of Saskatchewan, a 20 MWt research reactor could be built at their campus in Saskatoon. The cost of this could be split between the country as a whole and the province of Saskatchewan with income from commerical work once in operation. The submission to government was a response to a call for expressions of interest from Natural Resources Canada, although the future of the proposal also depends on the results of a public consultation on the future of uranium in the province.


By producing key medical isotopes, the new unit would bolster global supplies and reduce pressure on the elderly NRU unit at the Chalk River laboratories of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, which is currently out of operation pending difficult repairs. It should return by the end of the year, but NRU is due for permanent shutdown in 2016.


The reactor


Dubbed the Canadian Neutron Source (CNS), the reactor would be a 20 MWt unit running on low-enriched uranium. It would be optimised to deliver a preliminary goal of 2000 six-day Curies of molybdenum-99 per week as well as a neutron beam for materials research. That rate of production would meet the Canadian domestic demand more than four times over, leaving much for export and enabling it to fill the global role that NRU had taken.


The scheme's proponents believe that the CNS could be in operation by 2016 in time to take over isotope production and neutron science work from NRU. It wants the unit to be based on current proven designs, and the submission drew heavily on the experience of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (Ansto) in developing its C$400 million Opal reactor, which was built by Invap of Argentina.


Saskatchewan claims to be a great place for a new reactor, in part because of the University's relationship with the Canadian Light Source synchotron which was recently build within its campus. In addition, there has long been a Slowpoke-II research reactor on the campus, operated by the Saskatchewan Research Council.


Capital costs for the CNS would be C$500-750 million, with C$314-417 million of that going 'directly and indirectly' into Saskatchewan's GDP. Operational costs per year would be C$45-$70 million, also with the majority going into Saskatchewan's GDP. Between 125 and 194 person-years of employment would be added to the provinces lot annually.



The submission from the government of Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan carried a number of letters of support from the following:

  • Australian National University
  • College of Dental Surgeons of Saskatchewan
  • MDS Nordion
  • Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association
  • The Prairie Isotope Production Enterprise
  • The Saskatchewan Medical Association
  • North Saskatchewan Business Association
  • Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering
  • Saskatchewan Cancer Agency
  • AECOM Canada
  • Bragg Institute, Ansto, Australia
  • Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority
  • Institut Laue-Langevin, France
  • McMaster University
  • University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Canadian Nuclear Society
  • College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan
  • The Canadian Light Source
  • Cameco
  • Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation