This happened at Chalk River Laboratories, about two hours west of Ottawa, in the middle of what many Canadians would have considered “nowhere”. Here the National Research Council built (and later turned over to a new crown corporation, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited) the world’s best-equipped nuclear laboratory in its day, sparking a journey of discovery that led to cancer therapy, nuclear medicine, a long list of scientific firsts, and a made-in-Canada nuclear power reactor that today leads the industry for fuel efficiency and safety.
The most remarkable thing about this Canadian achievement is perhaps that hardly anyone in Canada knows about it. In its day it made a splash, but for a long list of reasons this field of endeavour has slipped into a form of faux-obscurity: anonymously underpinning a large segment of Canadian industry, science and medicine, while gaining the limelight only when there’s bad news to tell.
This is not to whine, since the nuclear community in Canada has done quite well for itself: the CANDU reactor, one of two fundamental reactor concepts in commercial operation around the world, powers half of Ontario with technological distinctiveness that can only be compared to this country’s aerospace triumphs: it is the Avro Arrow that flew.
As an economic engine this invisible industry keeps about 70,000 Canadians employed and pumps $7 billion per year into the GDP – long eclipsing its historical investment from Canadian taxpayers. As a source of medical innovation, Canadian nuclear technology has revolutionized clinical diagnosis, and armed doctors with one of the most formidable weapons against cancer." ...."From wartime expedient to sustainable innovator, Canada’s nuclear venture has brought dividends in world-leading science, revolutionary medicine, and diverse energy options. Canadians are privileged to face multiple choices in mapping our economic future, and energy is at the heart of this process. It is also our ethical responsibility to ensure that developing nations have as much choice as possible, for as long as possible. Critical thinking today will ensure that at least as many options are open to our grandchildren, from whom we borrow our world. "