An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team of experts has completed a follow-up mission to Canada requested by the Government of Canada and hosted by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The team found that Canada has addressed most of the four recommendations and 16 suggestions made during the initial IRRS mission in 2019.

The IRRS team comprised seven regulatory experts from seven IAEA member states, and three IAEA staff members. They met with the CNSC and other representatives from Natural Resources Canada and Health Canada at CNSC headquarters in Ottawa.

Canada has a comprehensive nuclear safety regulatory framework covering facilities and activities. Its 19 operating nuclear power reactors – situated at four sites – generate about 13% of Canada’s electricity. Canada also has uranium mines and mills, processing and fuel fabrication facilities, and waste storage sites. Canada also uses radiation sources in medical, industrial, scientific, and research applications, and has five research reactors.

The IRRS team said Canada strives to continuously upgrade its regulatory framework to address new challenges and upcoming technologies such as the development of small modular reactors and repositories for radioactive waste.

“The team recognises the hard work and progress in strengthening the regulatory framework on nuclear, waste, and transport safety in Canada,” said Mission Team Leader, Ritva Bly, Principal Advisor at Finnish Radiation & Nuclear Safety Authority, STUK. “The joint efforts of CNSC, Natural Resources Canada, and Health Canada have further enhanced radiation safety.”

The CNSC human resources plan was recognised as a good performance. The team said it clearly and transparently addresses challenges and risks and includes a wide range of diverse strategies and actions, as well as performance indicators to track and measure outcomes in line with the organization’s strategic objectives.

Of the four recommendations and 16 suggestions made in 2019, two recommendations and 10 suggestions have been closed. Notable achievements have been made in:

  • The radioactive waste management framework through the publication of the Integrated Strategy for Radioactive Waste and the revision of Canada’s Policy for Radioactive Waste Management and Decommissioning.
  • The conduct and processes for inspections of facilities and activities through further formalisation of the CNSC programme guidance.
  • The consolidation of CNSC’s safety policy elements and the development of a process for performing regulatory policy review and analysis.
  • The revision and publication of regulatory and guidance documents in the areas of the transport of nuclear and radioactive materials and fuel cycle facilities, so that they are consistent with IAEA safety standards.

The team highlighted remaining areas identified by the initial mission for alignment with the IAEA safety standards. These include:

  • Explicit justification of facilities and activities whereby radiation risks must be considered in terms of the overall benefit, in line with IAEA safety standards;
  • Full alignment of Radiation Protection Regulations with IAEA safety standards;
  • Implementation of constraints on dose or on risk, to be used in the optimization of protection for members of the public for nuclear facilities.

Speaking at the closing session of the mission, Anna Hajduk Bradford, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Installation Safety, emphasised the collaborative spirit of the mission. “This comprehensive review underscores the commitment of Canada to enhancing its nuclear and radiation safety measures,” she said.

“The comprehensive review conducted by the IAEA IRRS team during this follow up mission has validated the effectiveness of Canada’s regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety,” said Ramzi Jammal, CNSC acting CEO. “More importantly, the resulting assessment from this diverse team of nuclear and radiation safety experts has provided us with different views and perspectives to help ensure our standards remain aligned with international best practices.”

He added: “The hard work we dedicated toward closing the mission’s recommendations and suggestions led to many enhancements, including the modernisation of our radioactive waste management and decommission policy, a testament to our commitment to enhancing the safety, security and safeguard frameworks in Canada.”

The final mission report will be provided to the Government in about three months.