Tag Archives: Canadian Nuclear Laboratories

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Next Generation Nuclear

Recently, the Government of Canada announced an initiative called Generation Energy; re-imagining Canada’s energy future. An energy future that, if climate goals are to be realized, must include a mix of clean, cost-efficient, reliable power. Several companies in Canada and beyond are racing to create the nuclear reactors of tomorrow.

Enter the next generation of nuclear. #NextGenNuclear

Image: Luke Lebel

Luke Lebel is one example of young leaders looking to slow down the impacts of climate change thanks to nuclear technology.

“I finished my undergrad degree in 2008 and I was thinking about grad school and was wondering where I could make a difference”, said Lebel, a Research Scientist at CNL. “I liked the idea of energy and helping to mitigate climate change, and I chose the nuclear industry because I think it can make the most amount of difference in replacing fossil fuel energy.”

Lebel concludes strongly that engaging with his peers and advocating for nuclear will be key to the industry’s future success.

“We have to start connecting with young people and have an image out there that makes us feel high tech. If you want to be like Google, you have to act like Google,” said Lebel.

Possessing a strong background in research and analysis, Lebel believes steering a successful next generation of nuclear will require information sharing, communication, mentoring and partnership.

“People of my generation are going to be working on the issue (Paris climate goals) the whole time. The role of younger people is really important just because of that,” said Lebel.

The International Energy Agency in its 2016 World Energy Outlook, estimates that 16% of the world’s population still lives without access to electricity.

Image: Rory O’Sullivan

“In order for people to lift themselves out of poverty, particularly in Africa, they need energy to be cheap and clean”, according to Rory O’Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer at Moltex Energy.

This need to help others is what lead O’Sullivan to forge a path in clean energy. A mechanical engineer by trade, his career took him through project management construction and wind energy before landing on nuclear and Moltex Energy was born.

Recently, Moltex Energy announced a partnership with Deloitte and is in talks with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), and major utilities to work together on this vision for #NextGenNuclear. Moltex team member Eirik Peterson was also recognized for his work on reactor physics by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as the recipient of a “Young Innovator” award in Russia recently along with Lebel.

“The waste is concentrated and produces a lot of heat, you can’t put it in the ground, but if you shield it and put it into a box, you can plug that box into a turbine,” said O’Sullivan. “That box can then produce power for 10 years, maintenance free. It can also be used to provide district heat to communities.”

This ability of #NextGenNuclear to recycle used fuel to provide heat and power will improve humanitarian conditions, ensuring a brighter future.

Image: Eric Meyer

Advocating for nuclear is exactly what Generation Atomic has set out to do. Founded by Eric G. Meyer, this grassroots nuclear advocacy group is self-described as “energizing and empowering today’s generation to advocate for a nuclear future.”

Using a combination of the latest in new digital technology and on the ground outreach, Generation Atomic is raising awareness about the importance of nuclear energy for people and the planet.

As the Government of Canada looks to reimagine its energy future, it is clear: the next generation of nuclear is here and is working hard to ensure that we have a clean, low-carbon tomorrow for the next generation and beyond.

Do you have a next generation energy story?

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Celebrating Canada 150: Nuclear Science and Innovation

From the birthplace of Confederation, Charlottetown, to the home of the nation’s capital, Ottawa, the fireworks send off to mark Canada’s 150th birthday is only one in a series of celebrations to acknowledge the storied history of our country. As Canada officially celebrates a century and a half we wanted to look back the contributions that our nuclear scientists have made to our country and beyond.

The latest numbers from the Canadian Cancer Society predict that 2 out of every 5 Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime. While cancer can target people at any age, people over 50 are at the greatest risk for developing some form of cancer. Over the years, numerous advancements have been made in the field of cancer research but the work done by a team of researchers in Saskatoon arguably paved the way for today’s cancer treatments.

Sylvia Fedoruk, a pioneer in the field of medical physics, was the only woman in Canada working in the field in the 1950s. Fedoruk was a member of a University of Saskatchewan team working on cobalt-60 radiation therapy. Under the guidance of Dr. Harold Johns, Fedoruk and others were the first group in Canada to successfully treat a cancer patient using cobalt-60 radiation therapy. Thanks to their pioneering work, over 70 million people around the world have benefited from this type of treatment. In fact, the benefits of cobalt-60 machines go far beyond the Canadian border as cobalt-60 radiation therapy machines have been used all over the world to treat cancer patients.

Building on the early work of scientists, advancements in nuclear medicine include the use of alpha therapies. Through a targeted approach, cancer cells are blasted from the inside out, minimizing the damage to healthy tissues. These alpha-emitting isotopes are thought to be especially effective for people that are dealing with late-stage or metastasized cancers (cancer that has spread from one part of the body to another) and could be the basis for the next wave of cancer treatments.

“It’s a magic bullet for people in the cancer field because it has the beauty of sparing healthy tissues and finding and weeding out tiny tumours,” according to Dr. Tom Ruth, Special Advisor, Emeritus, TRIUMF.

Clean, reliable and sustainable energy is one of the pillars of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Canada’s nuclear industry is a driving force of the economy, contributing over 6 billion dollars to the country and employing over 60,000 people both directly and indirectly.

Our CANDU technology helped spur opportunities for power generation. The Pickering nuclear power plant came on line in 1971 just four years after Douglas Point came online. Ontario was the first province to introduce nuclear into its electrical generation, New Brunswick would soon follow suit in the early 1980s. The efficiency and cleanliness of nuclear allowed Ontario to reduce emissions and provide energy security following the province’s decision to axe coal from electrical generation in 2014, eliminating smog days from the province. It is estimated that thanks to nuclear power production in Ontario alone, 45 million tonnes of carbon is removed from the atmosphere, equal to 10 million cars.

Canada’s history with nuclear generation goes back over half a century ago, when a team of engineers in Montreal developed the first reactor known as the National Research Experimental (NRX) reactor. The NRX, which came on line in 1947, led the way for research into isotopes and positioned Canada as a world leader in supplying the much-needed medical material all over the world ever since.

Communities are at the very core of the nuclear industry and you don’t need to look further than Cameco to see the positive impacts that community partnerships have. For over twenty-five years, Cameco Corporation has partnered with communities across Northern Saskatchewan as the largest private employer of First Nations and Metis people in Canada.

“More or less our community can have a future. Because of our young populations we need to be more sustaining and more certain, and this is one of the things that industry has brought to us, a lot of hope,” states Mike Natomagnan, the mayor of Pinehouse Lake and a former Cameco worker.

Canada’s nuclear industry continues to serve as a model for leadership, using science to find solutions to real world challenges. Our commitment to sustainable development and economic well-being is equal to our commitment to research and innovation. Powering the next generation of space travel is just one of the missions that Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is investing in.

A partnership between Technical Solutions Management (TSM), Ontario Power Generation (OPG), Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) would support and augment the Department of Energy’s program to renew the production of Pu-238, allowing scientists to continue their exploration of our solar system and beyond.

“Our hope is to land a contract to expand the amount of Pu-238 that is available for space exploration,” stated Glen Elliott, Director, Business Development, Ontario Power Generation.

If approved, within five years, we could be ready to power future space ventures with Pu-238 partially produced in Canada. The concept would rely on a commercial reactor to produce the necessary isotope, specifically OPG’s Darlington reactor.

The future of nuclear science will continue to explore ocean health and the ecosystems that are vital to our food chain thanks to research and work with isotopes. Dr. Sherwood Lollar was recently appointed to the Order of Canada for her work in geochemistry looking at the movement of groundwater and tracking environmental contaminants.

Through innovation, we will welcome the next generation of reactors. These include SNC-Lavalin’s Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor (AFCR) which takes the used fuel from light water reactors and repurposes it as new fuel for the CANDU, thus effectively recycling an important energy-rich waste stream, while reducing considerably the volume of CANDU reactor waste. The AFCR may shortly see the light of day in China.

The next generation also includes the development of small modular reactors (SMRs), ensuring an energy future that allows for healthier communities, removing diesel from the energy mix, continuing to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions and opening the door to cut carbon from the transportation sector through the development of hydrogen fuels. The heat potential locked in future reactors could provide opportunities for community agriculture production in the form of greenhouses, affording people healthier food regardless of where they live.

Our commitment to science and research holds the promise of continued advancements and leadership in health, the environment and energy. As we look back on the first 150 years of investments in nuclear science and technology, we are excited to see what the next 150 will bring and we are confident it will continue to build on a better tomorrow and a stronger Canada for all of us.

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NRU is the Key to Canadian Nuclear Science and Innovation

The NRU reactor
The National Research Universal (NRU) reactor at Chalk River.

An advanced engineering and manufacturing economy – particularly one that values national autonomy and security – derives good value from having a nuclear research capability. The core of such a capability is a research reactor.

Canada has this capacity in the National Research Universal reactor (NRU), located in Chalk River, Ontario and operated by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, formerly AECL. But it will lose this capacity when the reactor shuts down as planned by March 31, 2018.

The NRU, a high-capability research reactor, is the core in a Canada-wide nuclear research and development infrastructure. It underpins CANDU reactor technology used in nuclear power plants, and supports many life-enhancing applications in as medicine, crop science, and food safety.

The NRU is a strategic training infrastructure. It develops the human capital Canada needs to maintain its international credibility on nuclear energy, non-proliferation, safety and security policies. This expertise includes having the means to regulate nuclear activities and provide for the safety and security of our citizens.

Innovation involving the NRU is already occurring in a number of key areas, such as advanced reactor fuels – a key selling point for CANDU reactors in countries such as the UK and China; and improved safety margins – which is a national security imperative for Canada both at home and abroad.

Innovation is greatly stimulated where there are crucibles or clusters of research and development, even if small, in a specific geographical area. In the nuclear field there are key R&D clusters around Chalk River Laboratories, the Sylvia Fedoruk Centre for Nuclear Innovation in Saskatoon, and southern Ontario.

Together these, plus research facilities at more than a dozen universities, and major scientific facilities such as British Columbia’s TRIUMF and Saskatchewan’s Canadian Light Source (CLS), make up Canada’s “nuclear eco-system”. In southern Ontario, the cluster includes engineering, manufacturing and construction companies that build and maintain the infrastructure for nuclear power generation as well as nuclear R&D.

But the NRU also has a role, practically as well as symbolically, for the success of Canada’s foreign policy, national security, and global markets action plan.

Canada owns the CANDU reactor technology used by seven countries. We have recognized expertise in all areas of the nuclear fuel cycle, from the mining and milling of uranium to the fabrication of advanced fuels to decommissioning and waste management. We bring high safety and security norms to the world. We have a proliferation-resistant reactor design based on natural uranium, not enriched fuel.

The NRU supports operating power reactors in Canada, particularly in life extension. It provides the special conditions that allow testing, experimentation and problem-solving, essential in dealing with aging reactor components. High radioactive environments are necessary to replicate reactor conditions. The NRU provides these, but not just for Canadian-based CANDU reactors.

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CNL Invests in Hydrogen to Power the Future

Hydrogen laboratory at CNL
Hydrogen laboratory at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL).

Imagine a world where driving to work is no more harmful to the environment than walking or cycling. Where the burning of fossil fuels is a distant memory of a bygone era, long before advances in alternative energy sources for transportation were developed and commercially viable.

The promising science behind hydrogen as an energy source to power our everyday lives is a prospect that has captured the imagination of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) researchers, and prompted CNL to open a new lab at its site in Chalk River, Ontario.

Hydrogen laboratory at CNLCNL’s advantage in exploring future hydrogen applications stems from its six decades of experience with hydrogen isotopes such as deuterium and tritium. (Deuterium is the heavy hydrogen in the water used to cool fissioning uranium in CANDU nuclear reactors. It’s exactly like the regular hydrogen that bonds with oxygen to produce water, except it has a neutron – the extra weight that makes the water “heavy.” Likewise, radioactive tritium has two neutrons.)

Hydrogen laboratory at CNLCNL’s depth of experience is now being applied to exploring large-scale production of hydrogen using technology that can be integrated with nuclear energy. Essentially, this technology would use surplus electricity – either nuclear or renewable – as the clean form of energy needed to produce this resource.

Where could it lead? The “hydrogen economy,” perhaps.  Hydrogen is a low-carbon energy source that someday could replace gasoline for transportation or natural gas for heating. Hydrogen is attractive because the only by-product from its use is water – the regular kind. The bottom line: no harmful emissions to the environment whatsoever.

Hydrogen laboratory at CNLIn opening his company’s $55 million lab in January 2015, CNL President & CEO Dr. Robert Walker said, “This new laboratory will enable state-of-the-art research to ensure a clean and healthy environment for Canadians through the development and use of clean energy technologies.”

“The work that will be carried out within these walls builds on CNL’s global leadership position in hydrogen technologies. It enables us to develop safe and secure options for Canada’s future energy needs. And it gives us the foundation to leverage and direct our capabilities into other industry sectors and international markets.”

Hydrogen laboratory at CNLThe new lab’s equipment comes from other innovative Canadian nuclear companies such as Kinectrics, TurnKey Modular Systems, Tyne Engineeringand Angstrom Engineering. Each piece of equipment enables an experimental process to measure the performance of a chemical or physical transformation involving hydrogen. For example, one of the rigs measures the rate at which hydrogen reacts with oxygen at various conditions using different catalytic materials.

CNL’s hydrogen lab is an excellent example of Canadian strength in science and technology, and a product of Canada’s work to explore civilian applications for nuclear technology.

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CNA Visits the Canada Science and Technology Museum

By Erin Polka
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

On January 28, 2015, CNA staff had the opportunity to view the nuclear material currently in storage at the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

Like any museum, only a small percentage of their collection is on display at any given time. So we were very pleased when they invited us to take in the entire collection.

Below are some of the museum’s nuclear-related artifacts, which few people have ever seen.

Original electronic tower from the ZEEP nuclear reactor at Chalk River, c. 1945.
Original electronic tower from the ZEEP nuclear reactor at Chalk River, c. 1945.
The triple axis spectrometer (c. 1956) designed and used by Nobel Prize Winner, Betrum Brockhouse.
Triple axis spectrometer (c. 1956) designed and used by Nobel Prize winner, Bertram Brockhouse.
1920s Dental X-ray machine.
1920s dental x-ray machine.
1950s X-ray shoe fitter.
1950s x-ray shoe fitter.
(Front)  ZEEP fuel rod prototype designed by George Klein c. 1945 (Back) The 100,00th CANDU Fuel Bundle presented to Prime Minister Trudeau in 1975.
(Front) ZEEP fuel rod prototype designed by George Klein c. 1945. (Back) The 100,000th CANDU fuel bundle presented to Prime Minister Trudeau in 1975.
The "Advanced CANDU Reactor (ACR) Model" on loan to CSTMC from A‎ECL at Chalk River.
The “Advanced CANDU Reactor (ACR) model” on loan from CNL at Chalk River.
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Applying Nuclear Expertise to Solve the Auto Industry’s Challenges

This article was originally printed in the Winter/Spring 2015 edition of Lead, Reach and Connect, which is published twice per year for the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA). It has been reprinted with permission from the APMA and Matrix Group Publishing Inc. and cannot be reproduced without prior written consent. To view the full edition of the magazine, please go to https://apma.ca/news/publish/finallowresapmawinterspring15websitepdf#content-head.

By Clemente Angiolillo and Daniel Banks

neutron beamlines
The neutron beamlines at the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor protrude out from the shielding wall around the reactor to allow materials to be analyzed non-destructively in the beams.

Situated two hours northwest of the nation’s capital on the scenic shores of the Ottawa River, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Canada’s national nuclear science and technology organization, has been a key player in the global nuclear sector from its inception over 60 years ago. Through the work done at Chalk River Laboratories, CNL gave the world a uniquely Canadian reactor design known as CANDU, and put forth pioneering innovations in the area of nuclear medicine and environmental remediation technologies, just to name a few areas of expertise.

However, as several auto parts suppliers will attest, the solutions offered by nuclear technologies have application in other industries as well. Today, as the auto industry grapples with many technical challenges to meet stringent fuel efficiency targets— achieved partly by obtaining favourable strength-to-weight ratios for motor vehicles— as well as enhancing quality assurance of parts and components, researchers at CNL are bringing their unique facilities and expertise to the auto industry’s doorsteps, and with remarkable results.

in-situ examination
A visiting researcher prepares an advanced in-situ examination of an alloy’s properties under various conditions of applied load on a neutron beamline.

“On the heels of CNL’s participation at the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA) Annual Conference & Exhibition held in Windsor, ON in early June, we were pleased to announce that we had secured a new customer named AGS Automotive Systems Inc. to perform metallographic and surface analysis of various chrome plated parts,” says Elliott Gillespie, CNL director of marketing and international business.

The recently appointed marketing director says the technical challenge of this commercial contract is to perform indepth studies on the components to locate potential particulate or contaminants residing between very thin material plating layers, thus ensuring optimization of longterm corrosion resistance once the parts are placed in extreme weather conditions. AGS Automotive is a Tier 1 automotive parts supplier (and APMA member) specializing in bumper impact assemblies with capabilities in metal stamping, chrome-plating, Class A painting and welding. The company operates 10 facilities in North America and has approximately one-third of the chromeplated bumper business—producing mainly front and rear impact system assemblies and modules, as well as some general stampings, running boards and exterior painted trim parts such as grills—as sister company Tiercon Corp. Customers include GM, Toyota, Chrysler, Volkswagen and other major original equipment makers.

Years of automotive research 

new alloy sample
A visiting researcher makes small adjustments to the positioning of a new alloy sample on a neutron beamline to map its properties in three dimensions.

Lest one get the impression that CNL’s work in the automotive parts sector is a recent business activity, think again. Years of research on technologies to make lightweight car engines reliably have been afoot at Chalk River and may soon pay off with big dividends to parts suppliers. In addition, the value of CNL’s contributions to these technologies are being recognized by peer organizations and partners such as the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE), who recently bestowed a CNL researcher with a prestigious honour.

Dr. Dimitry Sediako, a Senior Research Officer, was inducted as a Fellow of the CAE in June 2014 in recognition of his contributions to improving manufacturing technologies in engine block casting and heat treatment, among other achievements. According to CNL customer Nemak Canada, these technologies, when implemented, will speed production times and reduce energy usage, thereby saving millions in manufacturing costs.

Some of these achievements and applications strike automotive manufacturers as novel and have potential customers wondering how exactly nuclear technologies can deliver value to the auto parts sector. Part of the formula for success is having diverse supporting facilities and the right expertise, but the other important piece is direct access to industry partners. And then there is the power of neutrons.

The power of neutrons

CNL hosts the only major neutron beam laboratory in Canada at its multipurpose National Research Universal reactor. Neutron beams, like no other tool, can be used to non-destructively probe deep inside engine blocks and determine the amount of stress in the material at any given point, which is a key factor in the reliability of the engine. Having honed this capability for decades, CNL’s researchers are world leaders in using neutron beams to determine properties of metallic materials, and have examined parts for jet engines, car engines, ship hulls, pipelines, bridges, and rail tracks, in addition to parts for nuclear reactors.

Dr. Dimitry Sediako
Researcher Dr. Dimitry Sediako sets up an engine block for non-destructive examination of residual stress on a neutron beamline at the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL).

Although not yet standardized in the automotive industry, leading companies are now beginning to make use of this hightech tool. Dr. Sediako has built partnerships with researchers from Nemak Canada, major automotive manufacturers such as General Motors (GM) and Ford Motor Company, four universities (Ryerson University, University of British Columbia, University of Waterloo, McGill University), and Canmet Materials Laboratory, each of which contributed their own tools and expertise in metallurgy, mechanical testing and computer modelling.

In one line of research, Nemak’s objective was to find the best way to build robust V-6 aluminum engine blocks. These engines have extremely low tolerance for distortion in the shape of the cylinder holes in the block. Stress relief methods are used after casting the block to increase stability, and yet each manufacturing step comes with its own costs and impacts on the materials properties. To improve over current manufacturing practices, the team needed to understand more clearly the factors contributing to stability.

Nemak and its research partners from Ryerson University accessed Chalk River’s neutron beams for several studies with Dr. Sediako’s assistance to acquire and interpret the neutron diffraction data. These studies included elucidating the stress distribution and microstructure in new aluminum alloys and in engine blocks, before and after stress relief methods such as heat treatment. Additionally, they included pioneering observations of microstructural evolution during solidification of the alloys.

The results were vital contributions to the success of the research, helping Nemak to determine that simplifying the heat treatment process is feasible without compromising reliability. Nemak is now moving forward to validate the new process by performing final tests before the engine can be used in vehicles sold to customers, such as putting a prototype engine block in a test vehicle.

Neutrons help GM

During a recent webinar organized in conjunction with APMA, CNL worked with Nemak and GM to showcase the application of nuclear technology to develop better engine components, and elaborate on the range of nuclear capabilities available to automotive companies through CNL.

GM uses neutron beams to accelerate the development of engine heads and blocks. These projects span three primary research areas:

• Evaluating effectiveness of heat treatment and quenching methods.
• Directly observing phase precipitation during solidification.
• Creep testing to make better predictions of reliability over the long-term.

In the first area of evaluating effectiveness of heat treatment and quenching methods, neutron experiments clearly falsified a hypothesis for GM that air quenching of cylinder heads would be a benefit over water quenching because of an overall reduction in residual stresses. The results showed significant stresses remained with air quenching deep inside the cylinder heads, at a depth of about one centimetre.

On the second research area of directly observing phase precipitation during solidification, GM uses modelling software to try to predict the properties of the components or alloys after they solidify, but sometimes the models fail to predict the actual results. Neutrons can uniquely identify phases that precipitate during solidification. In other words, they allow GM to “watch” the solidification process experimentally to better understand what is causing the discrepancies.

The third research area is concerned with “creep testing,” which in essence means determining how the shape of the part may change over time and eventually fail or cause problems. The neutron beam experiments allow GM to look at how the arrangement of the atoms is changing in the material to better understand how these changes take place.

Neutrons help Ford

CNL has an ongoing research project with Ford to examine new ways of joining dissimilar materials together to be used in light-weight vehicles. For example, self-piercing riveting (SPR) is a leading alternative to traditional welding methods, and has been widely used by Audi, Mercedes, BMW, and Jaguar, as well as Ford on their aluminum cars and sports utility vehicles. SPR joints have excellent mechanical properties and high fatigue resistance. But the 3D residual stress field in a mixed metal SPR joint had not been experimentally studied before, making prediction of fatigue life of such SPR joints difficult. Ford turned to CNL’s neutron beam capability because other ways of determining stresses were too difficult, considering the complex geometry and number of different materials involved. It plans to use the results from the neutron analysis to validate its existing residual stress prediction method, and document these findings to inform broader manufacturing processes.

“We know there are tremendous opportunities in the automotive and related advanced manufacturing sectors,” concludes Gillespie. “These industries are capital intensive and commercially focused with resources dedicated to R&D [research and development] advancement. We are confident that in the near future CNL will be regarded as a valued supply chain partner and an active participant in their respective product development and quality assurance programs.”

International discussions are also driving work in this area. The recently announced United States-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue, initiated by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama, recognizes lighter-weight, sustainable materials as a key research area in the development of next-generation vehicles.

In addition to neutron beams, CNL is offering potential customers a wide range of expertise and facilities that it has been using to solve unique problems for clients outside the nuclear industry, including surface science tools and burst testing services, to name a couple examples.

About CNL

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is a world leader in nuclear science and technology offering unique capabilities and solutions across a wide range of industries. Actively involved with industry-driven research and development in nuclear, automotive, aerospace, defence, security and life sciences, we provide solutions to keep these sectors competitive internationally.

With ongoing investments in new facilities and a focused mandate, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is well positioned for the future. A new performance standard reinforced with a strong safety culture underscores every activity.

For more information on the complete range of services at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, please visit www.cnl.ca or contact communications@cnl.ca.