Rob Mackay of Nemak Canada and Drew Marquardt of the University of Windsor speak to local CBC news about the impact of the closure of the NRU reactor in Chalk River. Researchers are looking for government action on the proposed Canadian Neutron Initiative as a way forward for alternate sources of neutrons.
Researchers in the industry and the education [system] are concerned with what they are going to do now that the Chalk River nuclear reasearch reactor has been shutdown. The reactor was shutdown at the end of march due to its age, but it was one of the few places in North America where researchers could use a neutron beam to study materials.
Researchers at the University of Windsor have been using these sub-atomic particles to better understand biological materials. Loss of the reactor could put research into how vitamin E works in jeopardy.
Drew Marquardt: “You can take a biological sample and measure it with neutrons, and not have destroyed your bacteria, or your model membrane. Whereas, if you use x-rays, i.e. light, those [have] high intensities that will destroy your sample.”
The beam also allowed researchers at Nemak Canada to study ways of making aluminum lighter and stronger for use in the auto industry. The metallurgical and heat treatment specialist at Nemak was part of a delegation that went to Ottawa recently to convince the government to replace that reactor.
Rob Mackay: “This is a unique capability that Canada has. There are very few places around the world that have this ability. And its going to help us stay leading edge going forward across many disciplines.
Mackay goes on to say that without the neutron beam tool it could make certain types of research more expensive or even impossible to do at all, and that could affect whether the research is funded. There is another reactor in Tennessee, but the agreement allowing Canadians to use it expires this year as well.