SNC-Lavalin to decommission research reactor

SNC-Lavalin's Candu Energy Inc is to provide decommissioning services for the Saskatchewan Research Council's (SRC) Slowpoke-2 research reactor, the company announced. 
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Slowpoke-2 reactor has operated at the SRC's Environmental Analytical Laboratories in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for 37 years. The low-power reactor, which is mainly used as an analytical tool for neutron activation analysis to determine uranium and other elemental concentrations, was commissioned in 1981. In January, it surpassed 20,000 hours of operation for its lifetime.

The reactor is currently licensed to operate until June 2023, but the SRC started the process to initiate decommissioning with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in December last year. Decommissioning is expected to take about two to three years.

"Decommissioning is the end of the nuclear lifecycle that SNC-Lavalin supports with the latest technology, modern tools and training - all with a focus on safety," Sandy Taylor, president for nuclear at SNC-Lavalin, said. "We have successfully decommissioned similar reactors at Dalhousie University and the University of Alberta in recent years, and our track record speaks to our commitment to the Saskatchewan Research Council that its Slowpoke-2 reactor will be safely retired in the most environmentally responsible manner," he added.

The first Slowpoke (Safe Low-Power Kritical Experiment) reactors were developed by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd in the 1960s, to provide a source of neutrons for research and teaching institutions. The reactor's core, which is sealed in an aluminium container vessel, sits at the bottom of a pool of light water to provide cooling and shielding. Generating up to 20 kWt of power, Slowpoke reactors are seen as having a high degree of passive safety.

SNC-Lavalin was in 2016 awarded a contract to decommission the University of Alberta's Slowpoke 2. Decommissioning was formally completed last month, following the cessation of operations in July last year. Slowpoke-2 reactors remain in operation at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec, and the Royal Military College (RMC) of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. The RMC in 2017 received approval to refuel its Slowpoke 2, which will enable the facility to operate for a further 30 years.

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