Laurence honoured with posthumous award

One of the pioneers of Canadian nuclear technology was honoured last week with a posthumous award from the American Nuclear Society. At a ceremony on top of the NRU reactor at CRNL, Freda Laurence accepted the ANS award on behalf of her late husband, Dr. George C. Laurence.

The award was made by Dr. Stan Hatcher, president of AECL's research Company, acting on behalf of the ANS. “Were it not for George Laurence, we probably could not gather here today on top of the reactor which owes so much to Laurence's work and innovations,” Hatcher said.

The ceremony was attended by Laurence's family: his daughter Patricia and her husband Stuart Buchanan; grandsons Craig Buchanan and his wife ZoŽ; Steven Buchanan; and George Jost; and granddaughter Tara and her husband Don Wisdorf. Many of Laurence's former colleagues from AECL and the Atomic Energy Control Board were also present.

Hatcher said that Laurence's contributions during the early years of nuclear research were “pivotal in the Canadian nuclear story. To his colleagues in those early days (during the development of the NRX reactor), Laurence was known as `Mr. Nuclear Physics.'

“George Laurence has won many awards,” Hatcher added. “It's unfortunate that this one has to be posthumous.”

Replying for the family, Stuart Buchanan said that when he first met the family 40 years ago, he knew Laurence as “a strange creature who paced back and forth in the basement muttering to himself in a blue haze, only emerging to pick up his briefcase and fly off to some important meeting.”

“I subsequently learned that Dr. Laurence was a kind, generous and tolerant man as well as a great scientist.”

The Certificate of Recognition from the American Nuclear Society read in part, “This award is made to confer recognition of a lifetime of achievements in the development of safety philosophy. Over a career spanning 40 years, his pioneering leadership in the area of nuclear reactor safety led to the development of the safety concept of numerical safety goals based on risk. His safety philosophy and principles for nuclear power plants have served as the impetus for safety developments in many other countries.”

“This award recognizes his pioneering achievements.”

George Laurence died in hospital in Deep River on November 6, 1987.