Letter to the Editor: March 22nd

Dear Editors,

Julia Stratton’s brief introduction to nuclear energy (Splitting atoms: making sense of nuclear power, 2021 Mar 19) reminded me how I was first introduced to nuclear technology at Queen’s, well back in the last millennium.  Having long been concerned about the damage we humans inflict upon the earth (our island home), I was intrigued by this source of energy and its relatively small environmental footprint.  Following graduation, a term job, pogey, and a return to school (Carleton) to do an M.Eng., I began a career in reactor safety with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited at Whiteshell Laboratories in Manitoba. After 12 good years there, I was transferred to AECL’s Chalk River Laboratories (now run by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories).  With over 30 years in the nuclear business, I have never doubted it was, and remains, a good career choice.

Canada has a long and deep history of nuclear science and innovation in this country: mining, refining, medicine, electrical generation, research, waste management, reactors, accelerators, etc.  We had the second largest nuclear knowledge and infrastructure, following WWII, but forsook nuclear weapons in favour of civilian applications of this nascent  technology – such a good call!  Since 1962 June 4, when the Nuclear Power Demonstration reactor first generated electricity, Canadian-designed and built CANDUs have delivered over 3.4 billion MWhe to Canadian grids, equivalent to over five years of Canada’s total electrical generation (2019), and avoiding well over two billion tonnes of CO2 emissions (let alone the ash and heavy metals from coal generation). In addition, CANDUs built around the world have delivered a further 1.0 billion MWhe.  And then there are the many millions of medical diagnoses and treatments around the world, using Canadian nuclear technology and pharmacology.

As an amateur student of nuclear history (and a founding director of the Society for the Preservation of Canada’s Nuclear Heritage), I am well aware of nuclear incidents, accidents, problems and waste legacies.  While they temper my enthusiasm for nuclear science and technology, they also teach so much – the good things to repeat and the bad to avoid. As I approach retirement, I will continue my interest in things nuclear, begun at Queen’s; as the logo on my electric car says, I will still be “powered by nuclear”.



Morgan Brown, P.Eng., FCNS, Sci ‘85

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