University of Alberta decommissioning its SLOWPOKE research reactor after nearly 40 years of operation
MONTREAL—A small nuclear reactor that has been used for research and training for nearly four decades on the University of Alberta’s main campus in Edmonton is heading for retirement.
The Safe Low-Power Kritical Experiment, or SLOWPOKE research reactor, has been a mainstay on campus since 1978, and according to the university, has been used as a source of neutrons for radionuclide production, neutron activation analysis, as well as general research. As the rector ages and other tools become available, however, the school has penned a multi-million dollar deal with SNC-Lavalin Inc. to decommission the low-energy reactor.
Originally developed by the the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the SLOWPOKE reactor design has been used at numerous Canadian universities and other research institutions. While a handful of the reactors are still in operation, Dalhousie University shut down their reactor in 2011, while the University of Toronto decommissioned its research reactor in 2001.
With significant experience shutting down a range of nuclear reactors—including Dalhousie’s SLOWPOKE— SNC’s Chief Nuclear Officer & executive vice-president of Nuclear, Preston Swafford, said it the company “will ensure that this research reactor is retired in the safest and most cost-effective manner.”
The company said the contract covers all aspects of the decommissioning, including waste management. Work on shutting the reactor down began earlier this year, and is expected to conclude by late 2017.