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The Canadian Nuclear FAQ  

by Dr. Jeremy Whitlock


Published in the August 2002 issue of the Canadian Nuclear Society Bulletin, Vol.23, No.3.   Artwork by Lorne Whitlock.

Much Ado About Neutrons

by Jeremy Whitlock

In this bumper year for nuclear anniversaries in Canada, one might be forgiven for overlooking the fact that AECL isn’t the only treasured national institution currently observing its 50th anniversary.

The gentle reader’s mind, thus prodded, no doubt turns to the Deep River Symphony Orchestra, the Ottawa Tulip Festival, the DeHavilland DHC-3 Single Otter, CBC Television, the first all-Canadian Governor-Generalship, or indeed, the reign of the monarch so represented – all worthy co-bathers in AECL’s pentagenarian limelight.

But for pure pioneering spirit, national identity, ingenuity, perseverance, and world-class accomplishment, one need seek AECL’s peer no further than Canada’s renown Stratford Festival, now in its 50th season.

Contrary to what most people would think, however, there is actually very little in common between Canada’s premiere classical theatre company and Canada’s premiere nuclear R&D company. As this no doubt comes as some surprise, the following notes are offered, by way of explanation:


12. As far as is known, Christopher Plummer has never operated a CANDU reactor.

11. Also as far as is known, no AECL luminary has gone on to lead a band of singing kids in short pants over a mountain. There may possibly be an exception involving Mt. Martin.

10. It is almost certain that William Shatner never plied his craft in a reactor control room. Then again, the Stratford Festival would probably like to forget that he ever plied his craft there as well.

9. AECL has never created a bomb.

8. There are no swans on the Ottawa or Winnipeg Rivers. Many a swan song has been heard, however, in these environs.

7. The Stratford Festival tried hard to avoid coincidence between its birthday, July 13 (one day AFTER the Glorious Twelfth), and well-known existing celebrations. AECL, meanwhile, was incorporated on Valentine’s Day and inaugurated on April Fool’s Day.

6. Stratford’s set crew can switch effortlessly from Scottish battlefield to the street where Eliza Doolittle lives, but they probably couldn’t change out a calandria and get the reactor going again in under two years.

5. Only one of AECL’s "star-cross’d lovers", Research and Development, received a mortal wound.

4. Had Macbeth a federal directive to create a firebreak around Dunsinane Castle, his contractor’s backhoes could have taken care of Burnham Wood in no time at all.

3. Stratford recently upgraded its theatres to provide more leg-room, breathing space, and general ease of movement. Cubicle space-management has a somewhat different philosophy.

2. Nuclear scientists have probably performed more Gilbert & Sullivan over the years.

1. The Stratford Festival was conceived by a small band of visionaries, implemented in a railway community on the edge of a picturesque river, presented in a large circus tent for the first few years, and in short order attained international acclaim through brilliant management and production. AECL had a solid roof over its head from the start.

Discussion welcome.

©2011 Jeremy Whitlock

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