The Atomic Energy Project (AEP) was established by the National Research Council (NRC) in Montreal early in World War II, using scientists from Canada, Britain and the US. Considerable progress was made but the nature of the activities soon made it obvious that a more remote site was required both for security and safety reasons. New labs were established at Chalk River, some 200 km northwest of Ottawa, where the ZEEP (Zero Energy Experimental Pile) reactor was used to demonstrate the correctness of the theories being developed. The nuclear chain-reactions at this reactor began in September 1945--in physics jargon, this is when the reactor "went critical." It paved the way for the NRX reactor (and later the NRU reactor) as an intense source of neutrons, fundamental atomic particles, for research experiments.

In 1952 the AEP was ended and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) was made a crown corporation to carry on research and development of the reactor program, with the view to making it available for commercial use. Though born of wartime research, the AEP/AECL and its facilities have been used for peaceful uses such as fundamental research into the nature of the atom and materials in general, for nuclear power generation, and for medical applications.

One of the problems that the AEP scientists encountered was the lack of instruments with which to do their work. The technology for the relatively new discipline often just did not exist.

Need prompted design of a range of portable radiation monitors with cable connected probes. Designs included Geiger counters for beta and gamma rays, and scintillation probes for alpha rays. These found wide application in monitoring for radioactive contamination and health monitoring--a constant concern at the AEP.

An evacuated torsion electroscope, a modification of an early model, was made by Hugh Carmichael and his group to detect gamma rays.
Canadian Heritage Information Network
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Canada Museum of Science and Technology, Musée de la civilisation, Stewart Museum, Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Museum of Health Care at Kingston, University Health Network Artifact Collection, University of Toronto Museum of Scientific Instruments, University of Toronto Museum Studies Program, Suzanne Board, Dr. Randall C. Brooks, Sylvie Toupin, Ana-Laura Baz, Jean-François Gauvin, Betsy Little, Paola Poletto, Dr. James Low, David Kasserra, Kathryn Rumbold, David Pantalony, Dr. Thierry Ruddel, Kim Svendsen

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