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Nuclear research reactor in Saskatoon defuelled

A nuclear reactor that was used for commercial analysis and research in Saskatoon has been defuelled.
A nuclear reactor that was used for commercial analysis and research in Saskatoon has been defuelled. Saskatchewan Research Council / Supplied

The Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) says a nuclear reactor in Saskatoon has been safely defuelled.

The Safe Low-Power Kritical Experiment (SLOWPOKE-2) research reactor operated without a safety incident since its commissioning in March 1981, SRC officials said.

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It was powered by a uranium core the size of a shoebox and no waste was generated from the reactor itself.

The SLOWPOKE-2 operated by SRC was used as an analytical tool primarily for commercial analysis for various industries, including neutron activation analysis, which is carried out by bombarding a sample with neutrons to produce isotopes of the element that are measured based on their gamma emissions, officials said.

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Throughout its lifespan, the reactor conducted over 240,000 analytical tests.

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The process to initiate decommissioning with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) was started in December 2017. SRC also contracted SNC-Lavalin to assist with the process.

SLOWPOKE-2 is now in a “non-operational safe state,” according to SRC officials. The transition involved defuelling the reactor and transporting the uranium to the United States without incident.

“After 37 years of service, the most business practical and cost-effective solution is to decommission the reactor,” SRC president and CEO Mike Crabtree said in a press release on Sept. 26.

“SRC will continue to support industry by utilizing alternative technologies.”

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The services the reactor provided will be replaced with alternative technologies through SRC Environmental Analytical Laboratories, officials said.

A proposed licence amendment will authorize SRC to fully decommission the Saskatoon facility over the next two years.