Report on Canadian regulator’s response to Fukushima

17 April 2012

In general, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission acted in an appropriate manner in its response to the Fukushima crisis, a new report from an external advisory committee concludes. However, it goes on to suggest nine recommendations–many centred on collaboration–that would help CNSC complete the process initiated by the Fukushima accident.

The external advisory committee was formed in August 2011 to review CNSC’s process in responding to the Fukushima accident and developing proposed changes into its regulatory framework. The EAC comprised three members with expertise in a variety of fields but, importantly, not the nuclear industry: Mr. Kenneth Knox (Chair), Dr. Gilles Patry and Mr. Henry Wright.

After eight-months of study, which involved hearing presentations on a variety of topics from CNSC staff, meeting with external parties and participating in a nuclear power plant site tour, the committee released its report.

It found that CNSC acted in an appropriate manner in its response to Fukushima and that interacted promptly and pro-actively with the nuclear industry beginning early in the crisis and throughout the longer term.

It said, however, that while CNSC had a clear process to address the responses from the NPPs, the proposed actions for assessing the information gathered and proposing new measures for non-NPP facilities had not been made clear to the public.

The report also pointed out that there is a lack of coordination of emergency planning roles in Canada with regard to nuclear events. It said that broadly based emergency planning exercises had been carried out ‘infrequently’ and that there is a lack of coordination in emergency planning exercises with other countries, particularly the United States.

Also highlighted by the report was that CNSC had a limited public communication/education strategy during the Fukushima accident with a strategy that was focussed mainly on web-based activities.

Based on all the findings of the report the EAC has made the following nine recommendations to CNSC’s president. None of these findings or recommendations signal areas requiring urgent action, the EAC said.

1. The EAC recommends that the CNSC continue to work with regulators of other member states of the IAEA to ensure that the IRRS process is mandatory, transparent and that the findings and recommendations are enforced.

2. The EAC recommends that the CNSC work with its fellow regulators in convincing World Association of Nuclear Operators’ (WANO) members to share the results of their peer review process to promote nuclear safety in all nations with nuclear power plants.

3. The EAC recommends that the CNSC work with other government departments to ensure better coordination and redefinition of departmental roles and responsibilities should a nuclear accident occur in Canada, the United States or overseas.

4. The EAC recommends that the CNSC meet with its partner organizations and licensees to establish the extent and frequency of multi-level emergency exercises.

5. EAC recommends that the CNSC clarify its position on the 12(2) orders with respect to the non-NPPs.

6. The EAC recommends that the CNSC examine the area of Human and Organizational Performance to achieve a more complete understanding of lessons learned from the Fukushima crisis.

7. The EAC recommends that the CNSC clarify its plans to address tornado hazards.

8. The EAC recommends that the CNSC develop a comprehensive communication and education strategy that includes the use of various tools including social media and expands partnerships and relationships with various science media organizations that have the ability to inform the public on nuclear safety.

9. The EAC recommends that, as the Canadian nuclear safety regulator, the CNSC should play an active role in ensuring that emergency planning exercises with the United States are conducted regularly.

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