Halifax university to dismantle nuclear reactor

Dalhousie University in Halifax is preparing to decommission the decades-old nuclear reactor sitting in the heart of its campus.

Dalhousie University in Halifax is preparing to decommission the decades-old nuclear reactor sitting in the heart of its campus.

The Slowpoke research reactor, commissioned in 1976, has outlived its usefulness, university officials say.

"It is an older technology and there are alternatives today," said Ray Ilson, director of health and safety.

This will be only the second time a reactor like this has been decommissioned. The process is expected to cost more than $6 million and take about two years.

The university revealed details of its plan on Tuesday to people who work next to the reactor in the Life Sciences Centre.

There will be extra security measures in place, with access completely restricted during critical periods such as when the fuel is removed sometime in 2010. Fire, police and other emergency officials have already been consulted.

Staff will be monitored, said Ilson. "Any time anybody actually works in the room, things like the people, their shoes, their clothes, their gloves, their tools will be measured for contamination," he said.

Anyone working in the nuclear reactor area will have to wear a special monitor.

Amares Chatt, the scientist in charge of the reactor, said the public has nothing to worry about.

"We have a perfect record of operation for 32 years — not a single contamination," said Chatt. "Nothing will happen here either."

The radioactive fuel will be taken for disposal to a U.S. government facility at Savannah River, S.C.

The university will start holding public meetings about its decommissioning plans in the new year.