Employees Support a New Concept to Create Chalk River National Laboratory

Posted at 10/01/09 - 07:00 AM

Chalk River, CANADA, October 1, 2009 – “A Chalk River National Laboratory (CRNL) will serve Canada as a resource for a broad range of researchers from across the country,” said Blair Bromley, a nuclear engineer, speaking to a gathering of CRL employees. In contrast, Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) is engaged in R&D that is mainly focused on supporting CANDU nuclear power reactors. Today, CRL is part of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), a crown corporation that is being restructured.

 CRL employees are stepping forward to build their own future using grass-roots democracy. Dr. Bromley is a member of a non-partisan, grass-roots team of current and former employees. This team was formed initially at the suggestion of Cheryl Gallant, MP, to form a concept for a future CRNL and to obtain opinions from the over 2,700 CRL employees about the restructuring. These volunteers organized employee consultation meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday to present the CRNL concept and to collect their suggestions. CRL employees attending the meetings voted 99% in favor to endorse the concept.

The Minister of Natural Resources, Lisa Raitt, said that she wants a “renewed culture of innovation and of excellence” at CRL. Industry wants to do more research at CRL, but it is “too tied up with doing work for AECL." [1]

The CRNL concept is consistent with Raitt’s statements, in that it will be much more outward-looking, partnering and impacting all levels of Canadian society. That outward focus includes several new functions: leading diverse research programs beyond nuclear energy, partnering broadly with universities, industries, government, and commercializing knowledge, e.g., through high-tech spin-off companies incubated at CRNL, or transferred to industry partners. Thus, with a mission focused on science and industry, it will deliver enduring value for Canada.

In addition to baseline federal funding, CRNL will attract revenue from research contracts or full cost-recovery fees for access to its resources for isotope production or proprietary research. This business model will allow Canada to stop subsidizing the isotope business while securing its long-term supply.

The CRNL concept includes a new multi-purpose reactor for research and isotope production that can take over and expand the functions of the aging NRU reactor over the long term.

“We’re happy to say that staff provided a good number of useful and constructive comments to help refine the concept,” says Robert DeAbreu, a researcher on deformation of reactor materials. “We will include these in our report that will be submitted to the government later this month.”

SOURCE: Chalk River Employees Ad hoc TaskforcE for a national laboratory (CREATE). 

[1] Speech to the Economic Club of Canada. Sept. 11, 2009.

Author: CREATE Working Group
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