1941: George C. Laurence designs one of the world’s first nuclear reactors at the National Research Council (NRC) laboratories in Ottawa.
1944: NRC builds a nuclear research facility in Chalk River, ON.
1945: The ZEEP (Zero Energy Experimental Pile) at Chalk River makes Canada the second country to control nuclear fission in a reactor. The first controlled reaction took place in 1942 in the United States, under the leadership of Enrico Fermi.
1946: The Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) is established as Canada’s federal nuclear regulator.
1947: The National Research Experimental (NRX) reactor – then the most powerful reactor in the world – comes into operation at Chalk River.
1951: Harold E. Johns (University of Saskatchewan) and Roy Errington (Eldorado Mining and Refining Ltd.) lead separate teams to build world’s first radiation-treatment units, using cobalt-60. The world’s first external beam-radiation therapy for cancer is delivered in London, Ontario.
1952: The Government of Canada establishes Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) as a Crown corporation.
1952: The NRX reactor suffers an accident with reactor-core damage – the first accident of this type. The reactor is decontaminated, rebuilt, and restarted after 14 months. Lessons learned from this accident provide the guiding principles of reactor safety, which are still used today. Staff involved in the accident and remediation process were monitored for decades and found to have experienced no negative health consequences.
1954: Wilfrid B. Lewis initiates the development of the CANDU reactor through cooperation among AECL, Ontario Hydro, and Canadian General Electric Company.
1957: The National Research Universal (NRU) reactor, a multipurpose research facility, comes into operation at Chalk River.
1962: The Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) reactor comes online, at a capacity of 22 megawatts (MWe). NPD was Canada’s first electricity-producing reactor, and the prototype for the CANDU reactor design.
1964: AECL develops the first commercial cobalt-60 sterilizer for food and medical supplies.
1968: The Douglas Point facility, Canada’s first full-scale nuclear generating station, comes online in Kincardine, Ontario, at a capacity of 220 MWe.
1972: The first CANDU reactor outside Canada comes online at Rajasthan in India.
1973: All four units at the Pickering A facility are completed, for a total capacity of 2060 MWe, becoming the largest nuclear power generating station in the world at the time.
1982: Canadian nuclear power expands beyond Ontario with both the Point Lepreau NGS reactor in New Brunswick and the Gentilly-2 NGS reactor in Quebec coming online, each capable of producing 635 MWe. Quebec had previously operated the Gentilly-1 NGS as a prototype.
1994: Canadian physicist Bertram N. Brockhouse is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his research on neutron scattering at Chalk River.
1996: Two CANDU reactors are sold to China, in the largest commercial contract between the two countries at the time. These reactors (Qinshan-4 and -5) were completed in 2003, ahead of schedule and under budget, and were the fastest-ever constructed nuclear power facilities in China.
2000: The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is created under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act to replace the former AECB.
2002: The Nuclear Fuel Waste Act is passed, mandating the creation of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO). Later, in 2007, the federal government approved the NWMO’s “adaptive phased management” approach for the long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel.
2011: AECL’s commercial operations is acquired by Candu Energy Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian engineering company SNC-Lavalin. AECL remains a federal Crown corporation and the corporate head office moves to Chalk River.
2012: The nuclear powered Curiosity rover lands on Mars, carrying Canadian analytical equipment, and sends photos back to Earth.
2014: Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) was created as a wholly-owned subsidiary of AECL.
2018: Nuclear power continues to be Canada’s leading source of non-hydro electricity, powering approximately 17% of the country and over 60% of the province of Ontario.