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The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has renewed the non-power reactor operating licence for two Slowpoke-2 research reactors. The licence held by the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) was renewed for 20 years and the licence for École Polytechnique de Montréal was renewed for 10 years.

Slowpoke is an acronym for Safe LOW-POwer Kritical Experiment.

The SLOWPOKE-2 reactor is a sealed-container in-pool type research reactor developed by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) in the 1960s. The low-power, compact core reactor technology 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 – two in Canada and one in Jamaica.

RMC’s reactor is located in Kingston, Ontario, on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe and Huron-Wendat peoples. It began operating in 1985. RMC applied for a 10-year licence renewal in February 2022 but revised this in January 2023 requesting a renewal of 20 years. The new licence is valid until June 2043. The decision followed a public hearing based on written materials. CNSC considered written submissions from RMC, CNSC staff and two intervenors. The CNSC also made participant funding available through its Participant Funding Programme and invited interventions from Indigenous Nations and communities, members of the public and stakeholders.

A Funding Review Committee, independent of the CNSC, reviewed the funding applications and made recommendations based on which CNSC awarded a total of up to $900 to one applicant. Following the participant funding application deadline, the Curve Lake First Nation expressed an interest in RMC’s licence renewal application and requested funding to support its participation in the process. The CNSC then made funding of approximately $10,000 available to the Curve Lake First Nation.

After reviewing all submissions, the Commission concluded that RMC remains qualified to carry on the activities that the renewed licence will authorise. The Commission also concluded that RMC will continue to make adequate provision to protect health and safety and the environment. The RMC Slowpoke-2 is used for neutron activation analysis, neutron radiography, neutron tomography, and nuclear and radiation protection training.

As part of the licence renewal, the Commission authorised an increase to the maximum allowable reactivity of the reactor.

CNSC directed that, at the midpoint of the 20-year licence period, RMC must provide a mid-term update on its activities and compliance with requirements.

The Slowpoke-2 operated at École Polytechnique de Montréal y is located in Montréal, Quebec, on the traditional territory of the Anishinabek, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Kanien'keha:ka, and Mohawk peoples. This decision follows a public hearing based on written materials.

In making its decision, CNSC considered written submissions from École Polytechnique de Montréal, CNSC staff and one intervenor. The CNSC also made participant funding available through its Participant Funding Programme and invited interventions from Indigenous Nations and communities, members of the public and stakeholders. A Funding Review Committee, independent of the CNSC, reviewed funding applications and made recommendations on the basis of which CNSC awarded a total of up to $500 to one applicant. École Polytechnique de Montréal applied for a 10-year licence renewal in March 2022. The renewed licence is valid until June 30, 2033.

Image: Core of the SLOWPOKE-2 reactor (courtesy of CNL)

Date: Saturday, 01 July 2023
Original article: neimagazine.com/news/newscanada-renews-operating-licences-for-two-slowpoke-2-reactors-10978734