History of Nuclear in Canada

1900 – 1910

  • Ernest Rutherford was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on radioactive decay, performed at McGill University in Montreal, QC.

1921 – 1930

  • Gilbert A. Labine discovers Canada’s first uranium deposit in Great Bear Lake, NWT.

1931 – 1940

  • George C. Laurence designed one of the world’s first nuclear reactors at the National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa, ON.

1941 – 1950

  • The NRC began building a nuclear research facility in Chalk River, ON.
  • The Zero Energy Experimental Pile (ZEEP) reactor makes Canada the second country to control a nuclear fission reaction.
  • The Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) was established as Canada’s federal nuclear regulator.
  • The National Research Experimental (NRX) reactor, then the most powerful reactor in the world, came into operation at Chalk River.

1951 – 1960

  • Two teams led by Harold E. Johns and Roy Errington built the world’s first two cobalt-60 radiation therapy units. The first external radiation cancer treatment is delivered in London, ON, and the second 11 days later in Saskatoon, SK.
  • Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) was created as a federal Crown corporation.
  • The NRX suffered an accident with reactor core damage—the first accident of this type. The reactor is decontaminated, rebuilt, and restarted after 14 months.
  • Wilfrid B. Lewis initiated the development of the CANDU reactor in collaboration with AECL, Ontario Hydro and Canadian General Electric Company.
  • The National Research Universal (NRU) reactor comes into operation at Chalk River.

1961 – 1970

  • The Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) reactor, Canada’s first electricity-producing reactor and the prototype for the CANDU design, comes online in Rolphton, ON, at a capacity of 20 MWe.
  • AECL developed the first commercial cobalt-60 sterilizer for food and medical supplies.
  • Douglas Point, Canada’s first full-scale power reactor, comes online in Kincardine, ON, producing 220 MWe.

1971 – 1980

  • The first CANDU outside Canada comes online at Rajasthan-1 in India.
  • All four units at Pickering A come online at 2,060 MWe, making it the largest nuclear generating station in the world at the time.
  • AECL designs and builds the first SLOWPOKE research reactor.

1981 – 1990

  • Point Lepreau in New Brunswick and Gentilly-2 in Quebec come online at 635 MWe each.
  • Bertram N. Brockhouse was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his neutron scattering research at Chalk River.

1991 – 2000

  • Two CANDU reactors were sold to China—the largest commercial contract between the two countries at the time.
  • The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) was formed under the new Nuclear and Safety Control Act, replacing the AECB as Canada’s nuclear regulator.

2001 – 2010

  • The Nuclear Fuel Waste Act was passed, mandating the creation of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO). In 2007, the federal government approved the NWMO’s Adaptive Phased Management approach for the long-term storage of used nuclear fuel.
  • Candu Energy Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of AtkinsRéalis (formerly known as SNC-Lavalin), acquires the assets of AECL’s CANDU Reactor Division. AECL remains a federal Crown corporation.

2011 – 2020

  • Two units at Bruce A come back online after being refurbished, making the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station the largest operating nuclear-generating station in the world.
  • Arthur B. McDonald was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for demonstrating that neutrinos have mass at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Ontario.
  • AECL establishes a government-owned, contractor-operated arrangement whereby Canadian Nuclear Laboratories manages and operates its sites and facilities.
  • Ontario begins refurbishing 10 of its 18 nuclear power reactors—currently North America’s largest clean energy project.
  • The NRU is permanently shut down after more than 60 years of operation.
  • The Prime Minister of Canada announces a new Institute for Advanced Medical Isotopes in the TRIUMF facility at the University of British Columbia.
  • A diverse group of federal, provincial, industry and research stakeholders collaborate to produce A Call to Action: A Canadian Roadmap for Small Modular Reactors.
  • The premiers of Saskatchewan, Ontario, and New Brunswick signed a memorandum of understanding to develop small modular reactors to help fight climate change. In 2021, Alberta signed the memorandum as well.

2021 – Present

  • Natural Resources Canada coordinates the creation and launching of the national Small Modular Reactor Action Plan.
  • Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to deploy a Small Modular Reactor at the Darlington new nuclear site, the only site in Canada currently licensed for a new nuclear build.
  • Utility SaskPower has selected GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s small modular reactor potential deployment in the province in the mid-2030s. The selection follows an independent and comprehensive assessment process that also included close collaboration with Ontario Power Generation as the potential for a pan-Canadian, fleet-based deployment of nuclear power.
  • Ontario decided to extend the life of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station until 2026 and is looking to see if it can refurbish the plant to run for another 30 years to fill an expected energy gap.
  • The International Atomic Energy (IAEA) attended the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, more commonly referred to as COP27, and organized several events to highlight how nuclear technology and applications contribute to tackling climate change.
  • The 2022 Fall Economic Statement included the Clean Technology Investment Tax Credit (Clean Tech ITC), which gives a refundable tax credit of 30 percent for small modular nuclear reactors.
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