Candu Energy, a subsidiary of Canada's SNC-Lavalin, has been awarded a contract by the University of Alberta to lead decommissioning of its Safe Low Power Kritical Experiment (Slowpoke) research reactor. Under the "multi-million dollar" contract, which was awarded through a public procurement process, SNC-Lavalin 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 Slowpoke research reactor design was developed by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) in the 1960s. AECL's former Candu Reactor Division was sold to Candu Energy in 2011.
The company said that decommissioning work on the Slowpoke reactor began earlier this year and is expected to be completed in late-2017. The 20 kWt Slowpoke reactor, located at the main Edmonton campus of the university, was commissioned in April 1977. It is a 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 10 years.
However, in August 2013 the university announced its 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 $6.5m for the decommissioning. Slowpoke is one of four currently in operation at Canadian universities, providing support for research, teaching and industry. Similar reactors still operate at the Royal Military College of Canada, the École Polytechnique de Montréal and the Saskatchewan Research Council. Another Slowpoke reactor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was decommissioned by AECL in 2011.