The Ontario government has announced CAD6.8m ($5m) in the 2023 provincial budget to strengthen the research capacity at the McMaster Nuclear Reactor (MNR). The investment, which will be spread over three years, is part of the University’s CAD25m project to increase reactor operations to 24 hours a day, five days a week, and to expand the diversity and amount of radioisotopes produced.

The 5 MW multi-purpose MNR, Canada’s largest nuclear research reactor, is a leading supplier of two medical isotopes used to treat cancer – Iodine-125 and Holmium-166. The added capacity will also enable more research in clean energy and small modular reactors (SMRs) and increase access to scarce neutron beam time for Canada’s materials science programmes.

MNR first became operational in 1959 and was originally designed to operate at a maximum power of 1 MW. It was upgraded during the 1970s to its current rating of 5 MW and is classified as a medium flux reactor. It is an open-pool type materials test reactor with a core of low enriched uranium fuel that is moderated and cooled by light water. The reactor is housed within a concrete containment building and currently operates weekdays from 8 am until 12 midnight at a thermal power of 3 MW.

Image: The reactor core of the McMaster Nuclear Reactor (courtesy of McMaster University)