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CNL commissions $55 million lab

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer


Pledging to develop alternative energies and expertise in reactor safety, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) unveiled its new $55 million hydrogen laboratory Thursday.

Renovated within an existing building on the Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) site, the state-of-the-art facility will conduct research and development in hydrogen-based energy production, storage and safety.

Staff and dignitaries attending the commissioning ceremony were given a whirlwind tour of the laboratory which was being hailed as the federal government's first major capital investment since launching CNL's transition to a government-owned/contractor operated model. Four major consortiums are bidding to become the new operators of CRL.

"This is really an exciting day for Canadian Nuclear Laboratories," said Dr. Robert Walker, president and chief operating officer of CNL, who lauded contractor M. Sullivan and Sons Limited for bringing the project in on schedule and on budget. "This new laboratory will enable state-of-the-art research to ensure a clean and healthy environment for Canadians through the development of clean energy technologies."

The lab will deal in the handling, separation and management of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen used in firearm night sights, watches, exit signs, map lights, and a variety of other devices. Tritium is also used as a tracer in biomedical and academic research. Some countries use tritium as fuel for thermonuclear weapons, although Canada is committed to nuclear non-proliferation.

"Canada is renowned for our developments in the peaceful application and the latest innovations in nuclear science and technology," said Kelly Block, parliamentary secretary to Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford.

With the CRL contractor scheduled to be in place this year, Block reaffirmed Ottawa's commitment to the Canadian nuclear sector with cutting edge facilities like this one. She noted that the federal government has already invested $325 million to renew existing infrastructure and construction new facilities.

"The nuclear laboratories will continue to play a critical role fulfilling the government's waste and decommissioning responsibilities, providing nuclear expertise, and offering services to users of the laboratories on commercial trips," she said adding they will promote trade for nuclear products and services with countries such as China and India.

The hydrogen lab will also develop new production processes, energy storage strategies and safer heavy water processes. It will further foster alternative, clean energy solutions through hydrogen production, as well as develop fuel cells which should reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

"It is more than an investment in bricks and mortar," said Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MP Cheryl Gallant. "It is a vote in the confidence in the men and women and many talented people who are carrying out a long tradition of research and development."

Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist

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