Canadian Neutron Initiative in Research Money

Highlights from “Scientists raise alarm over future of neutron beam research capacity” in the Sept 6, 2017 edition of Research Money:

Canadian researchers whose work relies on access to a neutron beam source have issued an urgent appeal to the federal government for stop-gap funding to offset the looming impact from the March 2018 closure of the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor at Chalk River ON. The Canadian Neutron Initiative (CNI) is requesting $24 million over the next three years and $19 million a year between 2021 and 2029 to buy beam time at foreign facilities and to upgrade the small, medium-flux nuclear reactor at McMaster Univ.

In its August 3rd submission to the House of Commons Finance Committee, CNI’s working group says the funding request is far less than the price tag for maintaining the NRU, which has exceeded $100-million annually in recent years. CNI says its aim is to “prevent the loss of an irreplaceable tool for materials research” that benefits Canada’s push for clean energy, advanced manufacturing, health and food security and safety and security.

[Dr Rob Baker, McMaster’s VP research and a member of CNI’s working group] describes the current situation as “extremely urgent” and characterizes the end of the 10-year facility access agreement [with the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge in 2018] and closure of the NRU as “a perfect storm” that could create a neutron beam gap at a time of increasing utility for both the academic community and industry.

“The need for neutron beams is growing because of the new types of materials that are being developed. There’s been an incredible proliferation of new materials and we need to understand their characteristics. Industry is asking for them,” he says. “We’re all in on helping industry develop. McMaster does a huge number of industry contracts and a lack of neutron beams will limit our ability to do these.”

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