McMaster Nuclear Reactor has a strong workplace and radiation safety training program for its staff that includes regular “refresher” sessions. All work with nuclear materials at MNR is carried out by highly qualified personnel who have received extensive training in the safe and correct performance of their job duties. A Reactor Operator, for example, is required to have a minimum of two years experience on the job prior to being eligible to write a certification exam that will allow him/her to be the primary operator of the nuclear reactor. The examination requires the examinee to demonstrate both theoretical and practical knowledge of all facets of reactor operations, and is overseen by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Safety is a top priority at MNR: qualified staff members conduct regular checks and preventative maintenance on all equipment and instrumentation associated with the nuclear reactor in order to ensure its continued safe operation. Staff also participate in training exercises such as the fire response scenario of 2010 that was coordinated by the Health Physics Department and Reactor Operations, in conjunction with McMaster University Security Services and Hamilton Emergency Services. With CNSC observers on hand to judge the appropriateness of the response, a firefighter with Hamilton Emergency Services placed a device in the depths of the reactor containment building that would trigger the fire alarm. As the alarm sounded, reactor staff promptly evacuated the building and emergency personnel (firefighters and Health Physics staff) took over the scene. This exercise was documented in a series of photographs taken by the Science Media Lab, some of which are shown below.

Emergency Services personnel unload equipment

Hamilton Emergency Services (Fire) personnel arrive at MNR and unpack equipment as part of an emergency response training exercise.

Firefighters in MNR


Firefighters enter the MNR containment building to determine the extent and location of the “fire”.

 Firefighters are checked for contamination

Radiation Surveyors (navy blue) from the Health Physics Department check the firefighters for radioactive contamination after they leave the containment building.

 Firefighters use decontamination area

A firefighter uses the decontamination area set up by the Hamilton Emergency Services Hazmat team.

 Location of the mock fire

The site of the “fire” is revisited by a Hamilton Emergency Services worker and a member of the Health Physics Department.

All photos courtesy of the Science Media Lab.