Managing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear risks

September 1, 2015

CNSC staff play important role at home and abroad

What is CBRN?

CBRN stands for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials that can cause great harm if they fall into terrorist hands.

These include “dirty bombs” – weapons that combine radioactive waste materials with conventional explosives. While these are not nuclear bombs (nuclear bombs create explosions millions of times more powerful than dirty bombs), they are intended to contaminate an area and cause fear, loss of life, injury, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation.

An important part of the CNSC’s mission is contributing to global nuclear safety by ensuring that nuclear substances are used only for peaceful purposes. A key part of this is global management of the threats posed by chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) substances.

Radiological materials tend to cause public anxiety and worry, even when safety is not an issue. A CBRN emergency can involve a complex set of risk factors and substances. First responders must know how to assess these risks and communicate skillfully with the public to mitigate fear and disruption.

The approach to CBRN threats is based on the 9/11 incidents and on anthrax attacks in the U.S. in 2001.

Canada plays a leadership role

two employees training for helping first responders act in CBRN emergencies

Training is critical for helping first responders act in CBRN emergencies.

CNSC technical specialists provide training to first responders and support for nuclear or radiological emergencies.

We’re ready to respond nationally, and we collaborate globally:

  • The Directorate of Security and Safeguards (DSS) has a well-trained and dynamic CBRN group within the Emergency Management Programs Division.
  • Our staff provide CBRN training for emergency responders through Canada's Global Partnership Program, to enhance nuclear and radiological preparedness worldwide. Since this program began, CNSC experts have helped deliver more than 20 courses, with an average of 40 participants per course – that’s 800 emergency responders now qualified to combat CBRN risks around the world!
  • CNSC staff share their expertise globally by providing training and helping to deploy international programs. This year, Dariusz Mroz from the Assessment Integration Division is lending his radiological, nuclear, and international know-how in evaluating European Commission-funded projects under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace.
  • The European Union addresses CBRN risks worldwide through a network of CBRN Centres of Excellence (CoE). The CoE network enhances cooperation nationally, regionally and globally, and helps develop a CBRN strategy across nations. The initiative strengthens national capabilities and enhances collaboration through a variety of international projects.
  • Many organizations such as the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute and the International Atomic Energy Agency cooperate to address CBRN threats. Nuclear regulators are an important part of this cooperation. The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism is a voluntary partnership of nations and international organizations committed to strengthening global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism.
Raoul Awad and Dariusz Mroz are among the CNSC experts who help develop and deliver CBRN training, and provide advice during CBRN emergencies

Raoul Awad and Dariusz Mroz are among the CNSC experts who help develop and deliver CBRN training, and provide advice during CBRN emergencies.

A United Nations video summarizes threats from CBRN substances, including accidentally or maliciously displaced radioactive sources. The DSS team will continue to be vigilant, collaborate nationally and internationally, and contribute to global safety, security and international standards.

Learn more about CBRN events.