Chalk River Nuclear Laboratory (also known as CRL, Chalk River Labs and Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories, CRNL) is a Canadian nuclear research facility located on the Chalk River in Ontario, about 180 km northwest of Ottawa. The laboratory is owned by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited in Canada.
In this laboratory much fundamental and technical research is carried out. The CANDU reactor was developed in these facilities. In addition, great experience has been accumulated in the field of metallurgy, chemistry, biology and physics.
Bertram Brockhouse, a professor at McMaster University, worked at the CRL from 1950 to 1962, and received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1994 for his work in neutron spectrometry. One of the first directors of the institute was Sir John Cockcroft. He also received a Nobel Prize for his work.
Chalk River laboratories also play an important role in nuclear medicine. In 1957 a nuclear reactor was put into operation that produced important radioactive isotopes for cardiac patients (thallium) and cancer patients (molybdenum and technetium). Chalk River is the largest producer of medical isotopes in the world: 40% comes from Chalk River, 30% from Dutch Petten nuclear reactors and the rest of reactors in Belgium, France and South Africa and soon Australia. From 2009 to August 2010, the temporary closure of Chalk River ended with a large part of the global demand for isotopes in the Petten nuclear reactor.
Chalk River Labs History
The Montreal research laboratory was founded in 1942 from a collaboration between British and Canadian nuclear scientists. This institute was conducted under the National Research Council of Canada (NRC). The Chalk River Laboratory was opened in 1944, which in September 1945 housed the first operational nuclear reactor outside the United States. The laboratory in Montreal was closed in 1946 and the work was concentrated at the site of the Chalk River.
In 1952, the Canadian government founded Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) with the aim of promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The NRC transferred all the responsibilities of Chalk River Labs to the AECL.
In the following years until the year 2000, the AECL built several research reactors for the production of nuclear material for medical and scientific purposes. Despite the guarantee that the institute only serves to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, from 1955 to 1976, Chalk River supplied approximately 250 kg of plutonium to the United States, where, according to the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, It was used for the production of atomic bombs.
The first nuclear power plant in Canada came from the collaboration between the AECL and the Ontario Hydropower Commission, and was commissioned in 1962, right next to Chalk River Labs. This experimental reactor was a test with the CANDU design .
Chalk River Labs is still active for the AECL. Scientific research is carried out in collaboration with the NRC. In addition, there is the production of isotopes.
Temporary Closure in 2007
Under the permit issued in 2006, the NRU reactor was shut down for routine maintenance on November 18, 2007. In consultation with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which controls Canada in nuclear facilities, it was decided to add additional energy supplies resistant to earthquakes to the installation on existing emergency power supplies. The closure caused a worldwide shortage of radioisotopes for medical applications. For example, Chalk River produces two thirds of all technetium-99.
On December 11, 2007, the Canadian lower house approved an emergency law authorizing the restart of the NRU reactor for 120 days, contrary to the decision of the CNSC. This law was ratified by the Senate and received royal approval on December 12, 2007. Prime Minister Stephen Harper strongly criticized the CNSC because this detention threatened the lives and security of tens of thousands of Canadians. According to Harper there was no danger, unlike the testimony of the president and director of the CNSC, Linda Keen. She was later fired because she ignored Parliament's decision to reuse the reactor and had not taken citizens' interests into account when deciding to expand the reactor's safety features.
The NRU reactor was put back into use on December 16, 2007. Prolonged closure of the reactor resulted in the development of other safer methods for producing medical isotopes and, for example, using a linear accelerator for this.