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Ahead of its decommissioning, the low-enriched uranium fuel has been removed from the Saskatchewan Research Council's (SRC's) Slowpoke-2 research reactor in Saskatoon and transported to the USA.

The reactor is licensed to operate until June 2023, but the SRC started the process to initiate decommissioning with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in December 2017. A proposed licence amendment will authorise SRC to fully decommission the facility over the next two years.

SRC noted the decommissioning process is highly regulated and will be conducted under the stringent requirements of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Candu Energy Inc, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, has been selected to provide decommissioning services for the reactor. SRC expects the decommissioning to cost about CAD6.5 million (USD4.9 million).

The Slowpoke-2 reactor has operated at the SRC's Environmental Analytical Laboratories in Saskatoon since 1981. The low-power reactor is mainly used as an analytical tool for neutron activation analysis to determine uranium and other elemental concentrations. Since being commissioned, the reactor has since completed more than 20,000 hours of operation and conducted more than 240,000 analytical tests.

"After 37 years of service, the most business practical and cost-effective solution is to decommission the reactor," said SRC President and CEO Mike Crabtree. "SRC will continue to support industry by utilising alternative technologies."

The first Slowpoke (Safe Low-Power Kritical Experiment) reactors were developed by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd in the 1960s, to provide a source of neutrons for research and teaching institutions. The reactor's core, which is sealed in an aluminium container vessel, sits at the bottom of a pool of light water to provide cooling and shielding. Generating up to 20 kWt of power, Slowpoke reactors are seen as having a high degree of passive safety.

SNC-Lavalin was in 2016 awarded a contract to decommission the University of Alberta's Slowpoke 2. Decommissioning was formally completed last month, following the cessation of operations in July last year. Slowpoke-2 reactors remain in operation at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec, and the Royal Military College (RMC) of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. The RMC in 2017 received approval to refuel its Slowpoke 2, which will enable the facility to operate for a further 30 years.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Saturday, 28 September 2019
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