Canada Special Weapons
In 1942, Canada was asked by Britain to help in the secret Manhattan Project. A laboratory was built in Montreal in 1943. Uranium was needed for the bomb, so the Canadian government secretly bought uranium mine at Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories. This uranium was used in the making of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Canada had the only uranium refinery outside Nazi-occupied Europe, at Port Hope, Ontario.
Uranium mining in Canada started at the Port Radium mine in the Northwest Territories in 1942. The competition with the Soviet Union to build atomic arsenals spurred a uranium boom. In the late 1940s, there was a perceived need for a large and reliable domestic source of uranium to replace supplies predominantly from the Belgian Congo and, to a lesser degree, Canada. The next production phase began in the Beaverlodge area of northern Saskatchewan nearly a decade later in 1953. From 1955 to 1958 numerous uranium mines were developed in the Elliot Lake area of northern Ontario to meet the enormous demand for uranium from the AEC in the United States. As part of its uranium procurement program, the AEC purchased 73,800 short tons of UO3 from the area through 1962. By 1959, however, the AEC decided it would not extend the contract beyond 1962. As a result, most Elliot Lake mines and mills closed down in the early 1960's. Only the Stanrock, Canmet, and Denison facilities of Denison Mines, Ltd., and the Quirke, Panel, Nordic, and Stanleigh facilities of Rio Algom, Ltd. remained in production, but at reduced levels. Beginning in 1974, following the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' "oil shock," world demand revived as uranium was sought for nuclear electric power generation. The Provincial electric utility, Ontario Hydro, with its heavy reliance on nuclear power, entered into major, long-term contracts: first with Denison, then with Rio Algom. In the 1980's, however, the demand for uranium for electric power failed to meet predictions made in the previous decade.
A British-Canadian team produced plutonium in a reactor moderated by heavy water at Chalk River, Canada, although it did not become operational until 1946. Approximately, 252 kilograms of plutonium in spent reactor fuel was sent to the Savannah River Site where it was processed and blended with other materials in the main production streams for the United States nuclear weapons program.
From 1963 to 1984 US nuclear warheads armed Canadian weapons systems in both Canada and Germany.
Ontario Power Generation Inc. has submitted a proposal to decommission the heavy water plant at the Bruce Power Development located at Douglas Point, near Tiverton. Heavy water is no longer produced at this facility and there are sufficient inventories of heavy water to meet future needs. Decommissioning work will include site remediation to criteria established for possible future industrial use. Only above grade structures will be demolished; below grade piping and wiring will be left in situ for possible future use.
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