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A new meaning of the term “nuclear family”

Written by
Jim Ungrin
the North Renfrew Times
2022 Feb 02

Wikipedia defines a nuclear family as “an elementary family or conjugal family group consisting of two parents and their children (one or more). It is in contrast to a single-parent family, the larger extended family, or a family with more than two parents.”

However, Jim Ungrin, Artifacts Chair of the Society for the Preservation of Canada’s Nuclear Heritage Inc. (SPCNHI) recently learned from a neighbour, Terry Cooper, that the term can have a much different meaning for those of us in the nuclear industry.

The story begins with Allan Cooper who joined Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) in Chalk River as an engineer in 1964. He later left AECL and joined Ontario Hydro where he worked at Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) as a Licenced Shift Manager until it was shut down in 1987. He then rejoined AECL and eventually, post retirement, worked as an engineer at Cernavoda in Romania, where he was part of the Canadian construction/commissioning team for the CANDU reactors being built there.

Allan and his wife Ruby had four sons, Terry, Dave, John and Brent. They all caught their father’s enthusiasm for the nuclear industry and found careers in it. Terry became an Authorized Nuclear Operator (ANO) (formerly known as First Operator) and worked for many years at Bruce B Nuclear Generating Station (NGS); Dave also became an ANO at Bruce B NGS; John became a Supervising Nuclear Operator at Bruce B NGS. Finally, Brent, who started out as an operator at Bruce A NGS, moved on to Pickering NGS, then on to MAPLE at CRNL where he became a Licenced Operator and finally, he joined the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and served as a CNSC Inspector at Chalk River.

A remarkable family story. However, it does not end there. The enthusiasm for things nuclear then spread to the third generation of the Cooper family. Terry’s son, Allan (named in honour of his grandfather), became an ANO and Shift Manager at Pickering NGS, while another son, Kurtis, has become a Mechanical Supervisor at Bruce A NGS. Meanwhile, John’s son, Michael, followed the Cooper family tradition and became a Control Technician at Bruce B NGS.
The Cooper family involvement in things nuclear was not a male-only affair. Dave Cooper’s daughter, Jenna, became an ANO at the Darlington NGS and then moved on to Bruce NGS, where she became a Shift Manager.

The success of the Canadian nuclear industry has been a story of many people and many families. The Cooper family is the only known family with three generations licenced to operate a nuclear facility in Canada. Their contributions have been large enough that we may have to try to convince Wikipedia to list a second meaning for their definition of a “nuclear family.”

SPCNHI continues to welcome contributions about the nuclear industry. Contributions are most often centered on technical successes or events but, as this anecdote illustrates, there are many stories about the people that need to be told. Please send your always-welcome hard-copy contributions to the Society for the Preservation of Canada’s Nuclear Heritage Inc., Box 441, Deep River, ON, K0J 1P0 and digital ones to