Contract for decommissioning Canadian Slowpoke

07 April 2016

SNC-Lavalin subsidiary Candu Energy has been awarded a contract by the University of Alberta to lead the decommissioning of its Safe Low Power Kritical Experiment (Slowpoke) research reactor.

University of Alberta Slowpoke reactor - 460 (CNSC)
The University of Alberta's Slowpoke reactor (Image: CNSC)

SNC-Lavalin said that under the "multimillion dollar" contract - awarded through a public procurement process - it will perform and manage the decommissioning work, including waste management. In addition to providing the necessary tooling, equipment and training for the work, SNC-Lavalin will also deliver project, training and support documentation.

The company said that decommissioning work on the Slowpoke reactor began earlier this year and is expected to be completed in late-2017.

The University of Alberta's Slowpoke reactor - located at its main campus in Edmonton - was commissioned in April 1977. It is a 20 kWt sealed-container in-pool type reactor fuelled with slightly less than 1kg of highly enriched uranium. The reactor was used for elemental analysis, radionuclide production and teaching. Its current non-power reactor operating licence was issued by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in June 2013 for a ten-year period.

However, in August 2013 the university's vice-president of research announced his decision to begin the decommissioning process of Slowpoke as it had "not been able to meet its ongoing operational costs for some time". In May 2014 the university's board of finance and property committee approved the expenditure of over $6.5 million on decommissioning the reactor.

SNC-Lavalin chief nuclear officer and executive vice-president of nuclear Preston Swafford said, "Decommissioning and waste management is part of our holistic life cycle approach to nuclear. Our decommissioning experience, combined with our waste management capabilities, will ensure that this research reactor is retired in the safest and most cost-effective manner."

The Slowpoke research reactor design was developed by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) in the 1960s. Slowpoke is one of four currently in operation at Canadian universities, providing support for research, teaching and industry. Such reactors continue to operate at the Royal Military College of Canada, the École Polytechnique de Montréal and the Saskatchewan Research Council.

The Slowpoke reactor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia was decommissioned by AECL in 2011. AECL's former Candu Reactor Division was sold to SNC-Lavalin subsidiary Candu Energy Inc the same year.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News