SLOWPOKE-2 (Photo credit: CNL)Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) announced that it has safely completed a project to refuel the Royal Military College of Canada’s (RMC) SLOWPOKE-2 nuclear reactor. 

Work extends the operating life of research reactor by another 30 years, it noted.  

As a low-power, self-regulating reactor, the SLOWPOKE-2 is used by RMC to produce neutrons for professional development and academic research, including nuclear and radiological forensic expertise, and rapid response capabilities for environmental and nuclear emergencies, primarily by the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces. The reactor came online in 1985. 

Although on-site preparatory work for the refuelling was conducted by CNL over a four-week period earlier this summer, the work began in 2019. The scope included the planning and execution of work to remove the old reactor core from the federally-owned nuclear reactor, commissioning the reactor with a newly fabricated core manufactured at CNL’s Chalk River Laboratories campus, and transfer the spent core to a licensed nuclear waste management facility. Materials gathered from the spent reactor core will undergo further examination by CNL aiding in research which supports the continued safe operation of Canada’s nuclear fleet.

“Having recently completed both decommissioning and refuelling activities for SLOWPOKE reactors in other jurisdictions, we were able to draw on that experience to safely complete this project for our customer,” said Joe McBrearty, CNL President and Chief Executive Officer.

Ali Siddiqui, Acting Head of CNL’s Advanced Reactors Directorate added: “While a SLOWPOKE’s principle role is that of a research reactor, CNL’s capabilities in prototype fuel development, fuel qualification and fabrication used in this project, are also in demand by small modular reactor (SMR) developers as the next generation of clean nuclear technology advances here in Canada.”

Developed by CNL in the late 1960s, the Safe Low-Power ‘Kritical’ Experiment (SLOWPOKE) reactor is a low-power, compact core reactor technology that was designed for neutron activation analysis, trace radioisotope production and as a tool for teaching nuclear science and engineering. It is the only reactor in the world considered safe enough to be licensed for unattended operation.

Eight SLOWPOKE reactors have been supplied by CNL to universities and research centres across Canada and in Jamaica, three of which are still in operation today.