Plans for construction of a 40 MWth research reactor in Canada, which will replace the 40+ year old NRU facility at Chalk River are being opposed by anti-nuclear groups who are complaining of the high level of government subsidies AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd) is receiving for this project.

Although no formal proposal has been made to the government, discussions with the ministers are taking place and it is hoped that a proposal can be made soon. The plan to build the reactor – called the Canadian Neutron Facility for Materials Research (CNF) – is a joint project of AECL and the National Research Council of Canada, in partnership with universities and industry.

Ian Hastings, AECL’s head of strategic initiatives, said that a new facility for CANDU development work will be needed when the NRU is permanently shutdown in 2005.

The CNF will be a large core pool reactor of 40 MWth using uranium-silicide fuel of low enriched uranium. It will also be used for advanced materials testing and have a cold source which will open it up for important biological work.

Hastings said that the project, which is now estimated at CDN$388 million, will not involve any government subsidies as it will pay for itself. The financing will come from AECL and the National Research Council. He also noted that for the past several years government appropriations to AECL have dropped considerably.

While AECL will handle the CANDU related activities, the National Research Council will be responsible for its neutron beam research role.

The costing is being done using Chalk River as the site (as it has all the needed facilities and is licenced), although the EIS and subsequent siting procedures must still be undertaken. The cost estimate is CND$388 million (1998 dollars), made up of CDN$208 for the basic reactor, CDN$90 million for the associated CANDU facilities and CDN$90 million for beam facilities.

While a substantial amount of work will be used for biological research, medical isotope production in Canada will be provided by two 10 MW Maple reactor projects which are underway by the company NDS Nordion. The two reactors will be built and operated by AECL.