New nuclear power plant construction in Canada: FAQ

Q1. What is the role of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in the construction of new nuclear power plants?

Q2. Is an environmental assessment (EA) a prerequisite for the licensing of a new nuclear power plant?  

Q3. Who decides where the new nuclear power plants will be built?  

Q4. How long will the licensing process take?

Q5. Why is the CNSC adopting international standards?

Q6. How is the licensing process different now than it was the last time nuclear power plants were built in Canada?

Q7. What is the regulatory licensing process if a new nuclear power plant is added to an existing nuclear site?

Q8. What is the role of the Major Projects Management Office (MPMO)?

Q1. What is the role of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in the construction of new nuclear power plants?

A1. The CNSC regulates all nuclear facilities and activities in Canada. This includes power plants and medical facilities, as well as a variety of other uses of nuclear technology.

The CNSC protects the health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment, and respects Canada's international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

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Q2. Is an EA a prerequisite for the licensing of a new nuclear power plant?

A2. Yes. The EA must be completed with a decision that the project can proceed, as required under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, before a licence can be issued.

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Q3. Who decides where the new nuclear power plants will be built?

A3. The proposed location of new nuclear power plants is considered as part of the EA and subsequent licensing process.

More information can be found by reading the CNSC's draft regulatory document entitled Site Evaluation for New Nuclear Power Plants (RD-346) (PDF).

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Q4. How long will the licensing process take?

A4. The process to license a new nuclear power plant is triggered by the receipt of a licence application. Separate licences must be granted for site preparation, construction and operation. These licences would be issued in sequence. The CNSC expects that it would take approximately nine years from the receipt of an application to issuing a licence to operate. An estimated additional year is required for the proponent to enter commercial operation. This estimate includes the time needed for the EA process to be conducted under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the CNSC's licensing review and hearing processes under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, and the proponent's efforts with respect to the site preparation, construction and commissioning of a new nuclear power plant.

The timeline estimate is highly dependent on the completeness of the application submitted for each licensing phase identified above and whether there are outstanding safety issues to be resolved.
The CNSC will do everything within its control to ensure the efficiency of the licensing process.

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Q5. Why is the CNSC adapting international standards?

A5. Any new nuclear power plants will be built according to international best practices. As a result, the CNSC is adapting international standards that draw on the experiences of other nuclear regulators, in order to enhance Canadian requirements.

It's important to note that Canada has contributed, and continues to contribute, significantly to the development of international standards.

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Q6. How is the licensing process different now than it was the last time nuclear power plants were built in Canada?

A6. There have been various changes in the regulatory environment:

  • As of 2000, the Nuclear Safety Control Act and its regulations have been introduced.
  • A new EA process must now be conducted before any licensing decision is made by the CNSC.
  • New international standards must be considered.
  • A new joint review panel process allows both EAs and site preparation licensing to run at the same time. While these processes run concurrently, the decisions taken by the joint review panel occur sequentially.

Q7. What is the regulatory licensing process if a new nuclear power plant is added to an existing nuclear site?

A7. Decisions to expand an existing facility would be subject to the provisions of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and to the Nuclear Safety Control Act. The same extensive process that is required for any new nuclear power plant would apply.

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Q8. What is the role of the Major Projects Management Office (MPMO)?

A8. For major resource projects such as nuclear power plants, uranium mines or fuel processing facilities, Natural Resources Canada's MPMO is responsible for coordinating the work of all the federal departments and agencies that have a role to play in the regulatory process for major resource projects. The MPMO offers licensees a single entry point into the federal regulatory system. More information can be found on the MPMO website.

The CNSC is a participant in the MPMO initiative with respect to major nuclear projects, including new nuclear power plants. The MPMO will track and monitor new nuclear power plant projects as they proceed through the regulatory review.

Need more information?

If you need more information about currently operating nuclear power plants in Canada, contact the CNSC.