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Canada's Nuclear Future

Have You Heard of Deep River, Ont.? Learn the Once-Secret Town’s Story

Sue D’Eon

Mayor, Deep River

Deep River, Ont., is Canada’s Los Alamos — home of the top-secret Manhattan Project. Today, it’s a growing hub for nuclear innovation in clean energy and medicine.

If you saw Oppenheimer this past summer, you remember the fascinating story of Los Alamos, New Mexico. In 1943, Los Alamos was used for the top-secret Manhattan Project, a United States expedited multi-million dollar program as part of the WWII war effort.

But did you know that Canada has our very own Los Alamos? Like Los Alamos, the Town of Deep River, Ont., located on a secluded spot along the Ottawa River, was built in secret but with the goal of achieving peaceful nuclear power and medicine initiatives. Both communities are home to some spectacular minds, and each boasts the facilities and activities of a much larger city.

Canada’s first nuclear host community

Construction of Deep River began in 1945, almost at the same time that construction of Chalk River Laboratories began. Deep River was a parallel community to Los Alamos, and the researchers living there were tasked with developing a different kind of nuclear reactor — one which was designed with a priority on peaceful research.

Both the lab and the town were built in relative secrecy by the precursor organization to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, with a fence surrounding the community and a gatehouse. As Canada’s first nuclear host community, Deep River housed — and still houses — scientists, engineers, and technicians working at the lab, along with their families.

A small town with big amenities

“Deep River was designed to attract scientists from all around the world to work at the lab,” says Sue D’Eon, Mayor of Deep River. “As a result, we’re unique in that, for a town of our size, we have a disproportionately large number of recreational facilities, amenities, clubs, and things to do.”

Deep River, while home to just 4,175 people (as of 2021), has an arena, library, ski hill, golf club, curling club, tennis club, squash club, yacht club, symphony orchestra, theatre groups, and more. The town has its own police force, highly acclaimed schools, and a top-rated hospital.

Set in a naturally beautiful location, Deep River is also a haven for those who enjoy outdoor recreation, with plenty of cross-country ski trails, hiking spots, and an annual triathlon. “Deep River caters to all ages,” says D’Eon.

One of the best places to live

Deep River was actually one of the first planned towns in Canada, and its thoughtful design — preserving waterfront views and with a triangular downtown core and curving streets to slow down traffic — still shines brightly today.

“While it was originally a company town, Deep River became an incorporated municipality in 1958,” says D’Eon. “Today, it’s a thriving multi-cultural community with a deep community spirit and a proudly diverse population.” The town’s origin as a nuclear town has created a unique municipal legacy and a powerful sense of self-sufficiency in arts, culture, and sports.

As when it was created, Deep River remains an appealing location for scientists and families to settle. Recently, the town was recognized in several publications, including Moving Waldo and Narcity, as one of the best places to live in Canada based on safety, affordability, and access to recreational facilities and parks.

Learn more at deepriver.ca.

This article is sponsored by AECL.

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