21991 Paul Hungler on SLOWPOKE 2 Refueling at RMCC

21991 Paul Hungler on SLOWPOKE 2 Refueling at RMCC

‘Definitely not a slow-poke on the basketball floor’

Article by: 27182 Officer Cadet (IV) Carmen Kiltz

Since 1985, The SLOWPOKE 2 nuclear research reactor at RMCC has been a vital scientific resource for the Canadian Armed Forces.

Today, with over 35 years of use, the fuel supply for the reactor is in need of replacement. With a hefty cost, the intent to replace the fuel assembly is no small ordeal. To top that off, the current intention is to have the reactor refuelled by 2017.

I had the opportunity to speak with Maj. Paul Hungler, a former professor and researcher of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. He offered me information on his background and shone some light upon the question of refueling the reactor.

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The Kingsville, Ontario native graduated from RMC in 2001 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He was a member of the Men’s Varsity Basketball team- playing at the college level from his first to third years, and when the Paladins re-entered the OUA university level in his fourth year, he provided valuable veteran leadership to a rookie-laden team. He was a two time winner of the Tommy Smart Cup (1999 & 2000) emblematic of male athlete of the year.

The former four-squadron member returned two years later as an assistant coach. In 2006, Maj. Hungler began teaching at RMC.

“I enjoyed it, and it was really rewarding…I saw myself in the students,” he said.

Meanwhile, at RMC, Maj. Hungler had been earning his MSc and PHD at RMC with research oriented around the SLOWPOKE 2 reactor.

Looking back, his expertise and experience surrounding the facility at RMC has saved the CAF millions of dollars and has made clear the value of the reactor to the CAF.

Maj. Hungler now works at Military Personnel Generation (MILPERSGEN) located at RMC in individual training and education. He has worked to upgrade the Defence Learning Network (DLN).

While interviewing him in his office at MILPERSGEN HQ, we discussed the SLOWPOKE 2 and he shared with me some documents which explained its value and necessity of use.

The SLOWPOKE 2 is used in research as part of post-graduate education. To keep up with the increasing demand for nuclear research, the refueling is of primal interest, otherwise future students would need to study overseas at an increased cost to the CAF.

Research conducted in conjunction with the reactor is a critical step in detecting flaws, degradation, and cracks in structures owned by the CAF. One prime example was when the neutron imaging system at RMC was utilized to discover the water ingress in rudders of CF-18 Hornets. To prevent further damage, a successful drying technique was developed which allowed over fifty unserviceable rudders to be re-installed. The savings for the CAF were immense- over 3.5 million dollars!

In the future we will see an increased use of composite materials, making it ever more important to have effective imaging available by the RMC reactor.

Since 1998, the RMC reactor has also been heavily relied upon for provision of nuclear analysis for the Nuclear Vessel Visit Safety Program (NVVSP). To demonstrate that nuclear vessels do not represent any hazards or risks in visiting sites in Canada, regular sampling of sea water, sea-life, sediment, and aquatic plant material around those sites are analyzed at the SLOWPOKE 2 facility at RMC.

The SLOWPOKE 2 is also vital to the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit- Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CJIRU-CBRN) to ensure that they are prepared for potential threats. The reactor’s capabilities allow CJIRU to conduct training exercises. The expertise and experience surrounding the SLOWPOKE 2 are essential to their work and would be difficult to find elsewhere.

The documents explaining the uses of the reactor were evidently successful in making clear the value of the SLOWPOKE 2 facility at RMC to the CAF, as refueling of the reactor has now been endorsed by the Armed Forces Council and is in the approval process.

Maj. Hungler, who is nearing his twentieth year of service in the CAF, notes that his time at MILPERSGEN is rapidly coming to an end. Looking ahead, he sees himself working in the Aerospace Engineering (AERE) community or as a civilian professor at RMC or Queens. Perhaps by that time the SLOWPOKE 2 nuclear reactor will have been refuelled!