R$: Scientists disappointed with federal budget’s silence on neutrons

Highlights from “Scientists disappointed with federal Budget’s silence on nuclear research funding request” in the March 28, 2018 edition of Research Money:

Researchers dependent upon the aging nuclear reactor operated by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) are disappointed that there was no response in the latest federal Budget to their request for modest funding to facilitate access to different sources of neutron beams.

Members of the Canadian Neutron Initiative (CNI) have been advocating for increased access to foreign facilities and upgrades to a small reactor at McMaster Univ. They were hoping the science-heavy Budget would support their research while a more permanent solution to the closure of the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor is explored. Operated by CNL, the 60-year-old reactor is being decommissioned at the end of March.

In response to Budget 2018, CNI members tell RE$EARCH MONEY they have entered into discussions with federal departments and agencies that received new funding in the Budget to see if there’s any money that can be allocated to help realize CNI’s funding objectives.

“In the budget, there’s a big emphasis on boosting science funding, but there are may ways to target that money; infrastructure, individual grants and fellowships, new chairs, industrial partnerships, and the like … Of course, we were happy to see the boost to the tri-councils. But on the infrastructure side, we also really need a new coordinated program to connect Canadians with alternative neutron beam labs, here and abroad. We’ve really been cut off from this important tool,” says Dr Thad Harroun, president of the Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering, member of the CNI working group and associate professor at Brock Univ.

[John Root, Director of the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre] adds: “The plan right now is that we will wrap up the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre in the coming year. That is a team of about 20 professional and technical people that enable hundreds of users to access the facility effectively … We also have to decide what to do with our equipment. We have six neutron spectrometers and a number of (other) equipment that have a total replacement value of $30 million and those are assets that belong to the crown … so we have to decide whether and how to redeploy those — whether that could be a resource for building a partnership with an alternate neutron source, or maybe that we end up just folding it all. That has yet to be thought out and that’s one of the jobs for this year.”

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