Press coverage of the Society and its activities

2022 – A year of nuclear anniversaries

Written by
Jim Ungrin
the North Renfrew Times
2022 Apr 27

The year 2022 celebrates many anniversaries of important events in nuclear energy history. These include the 80th anniversary of the first demonstration of a sustained nuclear reaction, an event that occurred in Chicago in the USA on December 1, 1942. On that date the group led by Enrico Fermi were able to achieve criticality with the CP1 pile.

Turning now specifically to major events in Canada’s nuclear history, the year marks:

• The 120th anniversary of the observation and naming of spontaneous radioactive disintegration by Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy of the McGill University Chemistry Department. Rutherford received the 1908 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for his investigations into the disintegration of the elements, and the chemistry of radioactive substances”; Soddy went on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1921.
• The 80th anniversary of the famous ”OK, let’s go” approval by C.D. Howe on August 17, 1942, for the establishment of the Montreal laboratory.
• The 75th anniversary of criticality at NRX, an event that occurred at Chalk River on July 22, 1947.
• The 75th anniversary of the first shipment of isotopes from NRX. On October 21, 1947, a shipment of Cerium 144 was sent to the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon).
• The 70th anniversary of the formation of AECL. The “letters patent “ for the company were granted on February 14, 1952 and the new organization assumed responsibility of Chalk River April 1, 1952.
• A somewhat less illustrious anniversary is the 70th anniversary of the major accident that occurred at NRX on December 12, 1952. This was the nuclear industry’s first major accident.
• The 65th anniversary of criticality being achieved at NRU at Chalk River on November 3, 1957. NRU was to become a major Canadian research tool for many years and at one point supplied as much as 67% of the world’s important medical isotope molybdenum-99. NRU, NRX and the smaller ZEEP, PTR and ZED-2 reactors at Chalk River were all critical for the development of the CANDU reactors that now reliably supply Ontario with more than 50% of its electrical needs.
• The 60th anniversary of the first criticality of a CANDU-like reactor, NPD at Rolphton, on April 11, 1962 followed by the first Canadian nuclear-generated electricity which occurred on June 4, 1962 when NPD was connected into the Ontario power grid.
• The 55th anniversary of a commercial-scale CANDU reactor being attached to the Ontario power grid when on January 7, 1967 the Douglas Point reactor produced its first electricity.

The Society for the Preservation of Canada’s Nuclear Heritage Inc. was formed to collect and preserve artifacts from these important events in our history and to celebrate the many pioneers of the industry who made them happen. Many details of the events have been posted on our website and we invite you to visit the site and view our collection and stories about the people we honour.