Canada’s social, environmental and economic challenges require a complete twenty-first century scientific toolkit for research and innovation in materials. Because everything is made of materials, innovation in materials underpins nearly all technology advances for national priorities, including:

  • A Clean Environment: Producing clean, reliable, and renewable energy and storing it for an efficient electricity grid.
  • A Clean Growth Economy: Transforming manufacturing for clean and energy-efficient, light-weight planes, ships, and cars.
  • Safety and Security: Aiding nuclear non-proliferation, ensuring pipeline and rail safety, and determining fitness-for-service of naval ships.
  • Health and Food Security: Understanding the materials in our bodies on the nanoscale, designing medical devices, and developing resilient crops for global food security.

Neutron beams are versatile and irreplaceable tools for materials research, and Canadians have led in this field, applying them to make major socio-economic impacts in these priority areas for several decades. The impacts range from saving hundreds of millions of dollars by reducing downtimes of Canada’s fleet of nuclear power stations, to bolstering Canada’s scientific reputation through Nobel Prize-winning science. Examples are available from the Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering (CINS), here:

Canada lost access to these irreplaceable tools in 2018, with the closure of the NRU reactor in Chalk River, Ontario. In parallel, Canada lost its only arrangement for access to a foreign neutron source. Without access to neutron beams, research programs that require these tools cannot continue, and Canada’s leadership position is eroding. Further, the restructuring of federal agencies formerly responsible for provision of neutron beam infrastructure has left this role open to the initiative of others.

Toward a National Neutron Strategy

The Canadian Neutron Initiative (CNI), a working group of university executives, has laid a foundation for strategic planning for the future of this research field and has gathered support from 23 institutions across the country. It has identified four key objectives for a national neutron strategy to rebuild Canadian capacity for materials research with neutron beams:

  1. Building on existing domestic capabilities, including full exploitation of the McMaster Nuclear Reactor (MNR), a medium-brightness neutron source;
  2. Forging partnerships with high-brightness neutron sources in other countries;
  3. Exploring investment in new domestic neutron sources for the long term; and
  4. Creating a new, national governance and management framework for these activities.

The CNI working group has been an executive-level forum for coordinating activities related to each of these objectives and integrating them into a cohesive national neutron strategy. The CNI is also the steering committee for the creation of a new entity, tentatively called “Neutrons Canada,” with institutional members, that can manage a coherent national program of such activities, play a unifying role for the neutron beam community in Canada, and be a credible and trusted institutional voice.

About the CNI Working Group and Supporting Institutions

The Canadian scientific community initiated the Canadian Neutron Initiative (CNI) in 2015, aiming to establish a new, pan-Canadian, university-led framework for stewardship of Canada’s capability for research with neutron beams, and thereby enable a national neutron scattering program to continue beyond 2018. The CNI working group was founded by the VPs of Research of the University of Saskatchewan and McMaster University, the President of the Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering (representing researchers who use neutron beams), and the CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association.

The CNI is currently led by:

  • Baljit Singh (Co-Chair), University of Saskatchewan, Vice-President of Research
  • Karen Mossman (Co-Chair), McMaster University, Vice-President of Research
  • Michael Siu, University of Windsor, Vice-President of Research and Innovation
  • Alice Aiken, Dalhouise University, Vice-President of Research and Innovation
  • André McDonald, University of Alberta, AVP of Strategic Research Initiatives
  • Drew Marquardt, Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering, President

The work of the CNI is supported by universities and other institutions from coast to coast:

  1. Brock University
  2. Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering
  3. Canadian Light Source
  4. Canadian Nuclear Association
  5. Dalhousie University
  6. McGill University
  7. McMaster University
  8. Memorial University of Newfoundland
  9. Nemak Canada Corp.
  10. Queen’s University
  11. Simon Fraser University
  12. Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation
  13. University of Alberta
  14. University of British Columbia
  15. University of Calgary
  16. University of Guelph
  17. Université de Montréal
  18. Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
  19. University of Toronto
  20. University of Saskatchewan
  21. University of Windsor
  22. University of Winnipeg
  23. Western University

Resources and Reports