Whiteshell Laboratories

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The Whiteshell Laboratories (formerly Whiteshell Nuclear Research Establishment) was a laboratory in Pinawa, Manitoba. It was established by the Government of Canada in 1963 as an AECL research laboratory. This facility was centered on the largest organically cooled, heavy water moderated nuclear reactor in the world, the WR-1.

Also at Whiteshell AECL built and partly commissioned a SLOWPOKE reactor (SDR), to demonstrate the Slowpoke Energy System, an in-ground pool reactor designed to supply 10,000 kW of hot water for district heating. The project was terminated after market interest in a nuclear heating system dwindled. Other major facilities included shielded hot cell facilities, research laboratories and radioactive waste management areas including the Whiteshell Used Fuel Storage Facility.[1]

The site consists of a number of nuclear and non-nuclear facilities and activities. In 1998, AECL decided to close Whiteshell Laboratories and many of the facilities and activities have since ceased active operation.

The Underground Research Laboratory was an underground research laboratory reaching a depths of 4432 meters, with laboratory levels at 220 m and 420 m. The underground laboratory was constructed by Whiteshell (starting in 1983) to study the geological conditions associated with the storage of spent nuclear fuel. The facility was decommissioned and deliberately flooded in 2010 to perform one final experiment to examine how mine seals work in a water environment.[2]

Timeline for the facility:[2]

  • 1963 - AECL builds the Whiteshell Laboratories nuclear research facility.
  • 1980 - AECL receives $40-million in funding to construct the Underground Research Laboratory (URL).
  • 1983 - Construction of the URL begins.
  • 1985 - URL opens
  • 1998 - Work begins to decommission the Whiteshell laboratory
  • 2010 - Underground Research Laboratory is officially closed
  • 2015 - the decommissioning of WR-1 is planned to start[3]

See also[edit]


Coordinates: 50°09′00″N 95°55′58″W / 50.1500°N 95.9329°W / 50.1500; -95.9329