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Donald G. Hurst (1970–1974)

Learn how he helped shape Canada's nuclear sector

Donald Geoffrey Hurst
Donald Geoffrey Hurst (1911–1999)

Donald Geoffrey Hurst was the President of the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) from 1970 to 1974. During his brief four-year term as AECB President, Hurst was challenged with an influx of activity within the nuclear sector. Following the tumultuous Cold War era, the nuclear industry faced several monumental events. From the development of international non-proliferation strategies to the discovery of radioactive contamination in Port Hope and the construction of the first nuclear reactors in Canada, Hurst and the nuclear community were immersed in a significant transitional period. Further increasing the pace of development was an oil embargo, which placed renewed importance on domestic and diversified energy sources. Nuclear advancement and regulation became a focal point in national and international political arenas. 

To tackle the challenges of an evolving industry, Donald Hurst was selected for his comprehensive understanding of nuclear science and his experience within the Canadian nuclear sector. Hurst had significant experience working within the Canadian nuclear sector, which allowed him to address challenges presented during the early 1970s and to become known as an influential AECB president. Hurst dedicated his life to the development of the nuclear field, as a student, a physicist and administrator.

Donald Hurst was born in St. Austell, England, in 1911. As a child, he immigrated to Canada with his family, spending most of his early life in Montreal, Québec. Hurst completed bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in physics at McGill University; this academic success at McGill enabled him to pursue post-doctoral studies at Berkeley University and Cambridge University.

Book of Canada Enters the Nuclear Age
Canada enters the nuclear age was written by 15 AECL retirees and published in 1997.

An early interest in nuclear physics opened doors for Hurst. While studying at Berkeley, Hurst worked with the newly invented Lawrence cyclotron, an accelerator of subatomic particles. Hurst was also granted access to the Cockcroft cyclotron while studying at Cambridge University; he was a coauthor of the first scientific paper derived from the research conducted using this technology. 

Hurst applied the knowledge he gained over his consecutive degrees to the Canadian nuclear sector, returning to Canada to work for the Division of Nuclear Power and Reactors with the National Research Council (NRC) in 1939. In 1945, Hurst moved to Chalk River as part of the NRC's Atomic Energy Project. In 1952, this project evolved into Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), where Hurst was the Assistant Director of Reactor Research and Development.

From 1965 to 1967, Hurst took a leave of absence from his post at AECL to serve as Director of the Division of Nuclear Power and Reactors with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Upon the completion of his term with the IAEA, he returned to AECL until he was appointed President of the AECB in 1970.

Although Hurst retired in 1974, his dedication to the nuclear sector continued. He remained the Chairman of the AECB's Reactor Safety Advisory Committee for Ontario Reactors, Executive Director of the Royal Society of Canada, the Chairman and Canadian member of the IAEA's Senior Advisory Group for the Production of Safety Codes and Guides, and a coauthor of the book Canada Enters the Nuclear Age. Hurst was formally recognized by the Canadian Nuclear Association and the American Nuclear Society for his significant commitment to the nuclear sector.

Donald Hurst was an active member of the nuclear community for his entire adult life. As a student, researcher, scientist and administrator, Hurst contributed significantly to the development of the nuclear field and Canada's nuclear regulator.

To discover more about the history of the CNSC and the Canadian nuclear sector, browse our interactive timeline.

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