Canada's Nuclear History
AECL Achievements: a Half-Century Tradition1945 The ZEEP research reactor is completed at Chalk River, Ontario and sustains the first controlled nuclear chain reaction outside the United States 1947 The National Research Experimental (NRX) reactor starts up at Chalk River -- the most powerful research reactor in the world 1952 The Canadian Government forms the Crown corporation Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, or AECL, from precursor organizations dating back to the early 1940s 1954 AECL, Ontario Hydro, and Canadian General Electric (now G.E. Canada Inc.) form a partnership to build Canada's first nuclear power plant, Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) 1957 The National Research Universal (NRU) reactor starts up, and today is still considered one of the world's finest for its versatility and high neutron flux 1960 Work begins on a 200 MWe CANDU prototype at Douglas Point, Ontario 1962 The Province of Ontario receives nuclear-generated electricity for the first time from the NPD station 1965 The Douglas Point station starts up 1973 The Pickering Nuclear Generating Station in Ontario is completed, producing more electricity than any nuclear power station in the world at that time 1974 AECL makes its first international sale to Argentina -- a single- unit CANDU 6 reactor, derived from the multi-unit Pickering station 1977 Pickering Unit 3 achieves the highest capacity factor in the world 1981 Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau visits Wolsong during construction of Unit 1 1982 AECL begins construction on an Underground Research Laboratory for investigation of long-term disposal of nuclear fuel waste 1983 Four CANDU 6s in Argentina (1 unit), Canada (2 units), Republic of Korea (1 unit) start commercial operation and CANDU wins seven of the top 10 places for lifetime performance among the world's reactors 1987 CANDU wins one of the ten Canadian awards for the top engineering achievements of the past century 1990 The Republic of Korea orders Wolsong Unit 2 1992 The Republic of Korea signs for two more reactors, Wolsong Units 3 and 4 1994 Bertram Brockhouse is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discoveries using neutron scattering at the NRU reactor. 1994 Pickering Unit 7 sets a world record for continuous operation (894 days) without a shutdown 1995 The HANARO research reactor, with a core based on MAPLE technology, starts up in the Republic of Korea 1996 Cernavoda Unit 1 attains criticality in Romania on April 16 -- the first CANDU in Europe
Above, the ZEEP building at Chalk River Laboratories near Chalk River, Ontario, as it appeared around the time of the first startup in 1945.
The celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the first Canadian nuclear chain reaction, and the first outside the United States, on 1995 September 5, commemorated a history of achievement in the peaceful applications of the power of the atom. AECL is justifiably proud of its contributions to worldwide nuclear science and technology as well as the direct and indirect benefits to humanity.
A joint British-Canadian laboratory was set up in 1942 in Montreal, P.Q., under the administration of the National Research Council to conceive a reactor design and its associated operating and safety features. In 1944, approval was given to proceed with the construction of the ZEEP (Zero Energy Experimental Pile) reactor at Chalk River, Ontario. Dr. Lew Kowarski led the team of physicists and engineers that designed ZEEP and put it into service.
On 1945 September 5, at 3:45 p.m., ZEEP successfully achieved the first atomic fission in Canada as well as the first self-sustained nuclear reaction outside the United States. ZEEP enabled researchers to gather crucial information about core behaviour and lattice design that paved the way for further nuclear research and the evolution of the CANDU power reactor.
The Montreal Laboratory closed in 1946, but the work continued at Chalk River. With the benefit of experimental data obtained from ZEEP, the NRX (National Research Experimental) -- a natural-uranium, heavy-water-moderated research reactor -- started up on 1947 July 22. Following this achievement was the startup of the much larger NRU (National Research Universal) -- a natural-uranium, heavy-water-moderated and -cooled research reactor -- on 1957 November 3.
AECL today maintains a comprehensive R&D program that supports the CANDU (CANada Deuterium Uranium) reactor design and its product development. Together with partners in the Canadian nuclear industry and private-sector companies in other countries, AECL has not only designed, engineered, and supplied components but also managed the building and servicing of CANDU units in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. The collaborative effort has allowed the CANDU reactor to consistently place in the top ten for operating lifetime capacity among 439 power reactors in the world.
At left, interior view of ZEEP taken during the 1950s, showing researchers atop the reactor loading an experimental fuel rod. Experiments were conducted on fuel for early CANDU designs, including NPD and Douglas Point. [198 K GIF]
©1997 Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL). CANDU® is a registered trademark of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL). Revised 1997 June 6