When I was a young lad, physics was my abiding interest. OK girls too. But physics was the field I had chosen to study. Our focus was on solid state physics, all the way down to sub-atomic particles. My sub-atomic days were spent at Rutherford’s, right next door to Harwell.
Canada had been exploring nuclear physics since before Rutherford worked at McGill University. During World War II, Britain and Canada looked for places to build a nuclear research plant. Lots of water was a requirement, for cooling purposes. As well as a remote, but not too remote location. Chalk River met those requirements. And the Chalk River Laboratories were built by Canada, with the scientific community housed in Deep River.
By 1947, Canada had the most powerful research reactor in the world.
Over the years, Chalk River Laboratories grew to became the world’s leading supplier of radioactive isotopes for medical purposes.
However, much of the original nuclear work is shut down. People who worked there have retired, or moved on.
Knowledge is a time-sensitive thing. The accumulated experience, gained since the 1940’s, disappears as the people disappear. One group keeping Canada’s nuclear history alive is the Society for the Preservation of Canada’s Nuclear Heritage Inc.
Being in the area, how could I not visit?
James Ungrin was kind enough to show me around the Society’s building and collection. Really interesting. An hour zipped by.
(1) Canada has done some excellent work in the nuclear field.
(2) I learnt how to create blue topaz gems.
(3) Humans take a while to understand and manage technology.
And is this heritage relevant today?
Well 55% of Ontario’s electricity derives from nuclear energy.
So. Get into your electric cars, drive up to Deep River, and give thanks.