National Research Universal Profile
The National Research Universal (NRU) reactor does not generate electricity. It generates knowledge and saves lives.
The NRU reactor at Chalk River Laboratories is one of the largest and most versatile research reactors in the world. It was a landmark achievement in Canadian science and technology when it went into service on November 3, 1957. Five decades later, NRU continues to play a key role in advancing the quality of life of Canadians and people around the world.
The NRU reactor was built for three purposes: to be a supplier of industrial and medical radioisotopes used for the diagnosis and treatment of life-threatening diseases; to be a major Canadian facility for neutron physics research; and to provide engineering research and development support for CANDU® power reactors.
NRU leads the world in the production of life-saving medical isotopes that benefit millions of people around the world each year. When a short-term production shortfall occurred in the worldwide market for medical isotopes earlier this year, AECL, upon concluding it could be managed safely, responded by ramping up production to a new high. As a result, NRU set a new six-day record for the production of Molybdenum-99 (Moly-99), a medical isotope widely used for diagnosing heart diseases.
NRU also houses the centre for neutron beam research in Canada and is one of the few research reactors in the world available for commercial use. More than 200 professors, students and industrial researchers come to NRU every year to make use of this national resource. By using neutrons to probe materials, in-depth research can be performed on metals, alloys, polymers, biomaterials, glass, ceramics, thin films, cement and minerals. This work leads to advances in medical, industrial and scientific fields that benefit all Canadians.
NRU has the honour of being the workplace of Canadian physicist Dr. Bertram Brockhouse, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1994. Using neutron scattering to explore materials, he invented a new, highly sophisticated neutron instrument known as a triple axis spectrometer. These are now standard instruments at every neutron laboratory throughout the world.
As a unique and powerful world class facility, NRU serves as a cornerstone of the Canadian nuclear industry, producing the fundamental knowledge required to develop, maintain and evolve Canada's fleet of CANDU power stations.
The NRU reactor operates at power levels up to 135 megawatts (thermal). It operates consistently at an annual capacity factor of 80 per cent.
The reactor is re-fuelled at power. The core is contained in an aluminum cylindrical tank approximately 3.7 metres (12.1 feet) high and 3.5 metres (11.5 feet) in diameter. It is made up of 227 vertical lattice sites arranged in a hexagonal array with a pitch of 19.7 centimetres (7.75 inches). Control rods and enriched uranium fuel rods occupy about half of the lattice sites; the remaining sites are for low temperature/low-pressure experiments and irradiations. Two high-pressure/high-temperature experimental loops and six beam tube facilities are also available.