Cathedral

Canada’s second research reactor, NRU, sized at 135 MWt, was large for its day, but by the time it kicked off its working life, in November 1957, there were so many research reactors springing up all over the world, all of them by now peripheral to my central story about power (i.e. non-research) reactors, that I give them scant attention. That said, I relished this evocative picture of NRU in the idiosyncratic memoir of Kim Krenz, a chemist at Chalk River during its formative years:

The NRU building was situated between NRX and the river, so that the windows looking on the river gave an uninterrupted view of the spectacular cliffs on the Quebec shore. The narrowing of the river here brought the cliffs up close to the Ontario shore. These windows, running almost the full height of the building, gave the reactor hall the appearance of a cathedral, within which the reactor took up a commanding central position. The cliffs upon which the windows looked housed a family of ravens, the location of whose nest was visible to the naked eye. Over the years these large black birds had produced their own version of the famous cliffs of Dover. They stayed through the bitterest winter and became the plant’s first harbingers of spring. In late February they would greet the growing warmth of the sun with croaks and hoarse shrieks of joy while outdoing each other in aerial acrobatics high over the plant.

Krenz, Kim. 2004. Deep Waters: The Ottawa River and Canada’s Nuclear Adventure. McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, Canada, p. 103.
Kim Krenz cover

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