The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission – highlights of 2021

Highlights of 2020

January

January

Setting a new bar for fitness for duty in the Canadian nuclear industry

February

February

Strengthening our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion

March

March

A global pandemic, 1 year later

April

April

Continued consultation and engagement

May

May

Moving forward on emerging technologies

June

June

Environmental protection in action

July

July

Taking regulatory action to ensure safety

August

August

International harmonization on new technologies

September

September

Regulating innovative technologies

October

October

Celebrating 75 years of nuclear regulation in Canada

November

November

Engaging with international counterparts

December

December

Ensuring future readiness

Entering into the new year, we have an opportunity to reflect on some of the CNSC’s highlights and milestones in 2021. Our 75th year included great achievements, but also new and unexpected challenges that compelled us to grow and evolve in different ways. Nevertheless, we once again demonstrated our agility and delivered on our important mandate without skipping a beat.

While we accomplished a great deal in 2021, here are the year’s major milestones and achievements: 

January

January

Setting a new bar for fitness for duty in the Canadian nuclear industry

On January 21, the Commission approved the third version of REGDOC-2.2.4, Fitness for Duty, Volume II: Managing Alcohol and Drug Use. Initially published in 2017, this version of the regulatory document reflects updated requirements and guidance to further strengthen human performance in safety-sensitive and safety-critical work. The new requirements reflect additional testing methods to respond to recent scientific and technological advances, as well as the legalization and regulation of cannabis in Canada in 2018.

The changes include new measures that are based on solid scientific evidence and expert consultant research – they are about setting the highest standard for safety in the facilities we regulate. Our requirement for licensees to test workers in safety-sensitive positions for drug and alcohol use is informed by extensive consultation, engagement and outreach with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, unions, licensees and other Canadians. Our focus is on fitness for duty, not on being punitive. This means that workers in certain defined positions who test positive for drug and alcohol use are removed from safety-sensitive duties and referred for evaluation.

Our approach is consistent with best practices here in Canada and around the world and reflects guidance of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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February

February

Strengthening our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion

In February, we became the first government agency to take the BlackNorth pledge against anti-Black systemic racism. The pledge closely aligns with our values and equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) objectives. EDI is fundamental to everything we do, from strengthening safety culture, to spurring innovation and collaboration, and supporting better decision making.

Since 2020, we have facilitated the launch of 3 employee-led networks – the Black Employees Network, the Indigenous Network and the Women in STEM Network – to create a safe and inclusive environment for all CNSC staff. Staff have also had the opportunity to learn about racism, reconciliation, accessibility, equity and inclusion through organizational activities and events.

On the international and national stages, we spearheaded initiatives to increase EDI within the nuclear sector and leveraged opportunities at speaking engagements and events to highlight the importance of these values. Our President Rumina Velshi co-led the International Gender Champions (IGC) Impact Group on Gender Equality in Nuclear Regulatory Agencies, bringing together a community of nuclear regulators committed to working on gender issues in their institutions and countries, and with international partners.

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March

March

A global pandemic, 1 year later

On March 16, we observed a full year of working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges of the previous year, our staff never wavered in their commitment to protect the health and safety of Canadians and the environment.

The first year of remote work saw many remarkable demonstrations of flexibility, patience, determination and creativity on the part of our employees. Day-to-day operations continued, Commission proceedings remained uninterrupted, as did the work of our inspectors and other important regulatory functions and activities.

The first year also involved many innovations in how our employees and teams work together – from the tools and resources used, to the way staff collaborate and much more. These innovations will inform and benefit how we work and do business in the future.

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April

April

Continued consultation and engagement

April was another busy month for consultation and engagement activities, with our staff hosting several webinars on a variety of subjects. These virtual forums support critical two-way dialogue through meaningful conversation and real-time question and answer sessions.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering on our mandate to disseminate scientific, technical and regulatory information, and ensuring that we maintain open communication with the public and other stakeholders has remained an important priority. In 2021, our new e-consultation platform Let’s Talk Nuclear Safety facilitated 13 public consultations on several different projects, including regulatory documents, discussion papers and reports. We also held over 150 meetings and outreach activities with over 45 different Indigenous Nations and communities.

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May

May

Moving forward on emerging technologies

In May, we continued to move forward with preliminary licensing activities for emerging technologies, completing Phase 1 of the vendor design review (VDR) of Moltex Energy’s 300 MWe small modular reactor (SMR). The review concluded that additional work will be required in areas such as management systems, safety classification, and design aspects of containment structures if Moltex Energy decides to proceed with a Phase 2 review. VDR is optional and at the request from a vendor, and allows CNSC subject-matter experts to assess a design prior to any licensed activities taking place.

We also began the technical review of Global First Power’s documentation in support of its application for a licence to prepare a site for an SMR at the Chalk River Laboratories site in May.

As Canada's nuclear regulator, our role is to regulate the nuclear industry regardless of the technology used to protect the health and safety of Canadians and the environment.

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June

June

Environmental protection in action

We kicked off our 2021 Independent Environmental Monitoring Program (IEMP) sampling tour in June. Each year, our experts go into the field to monitor the environment around Canadian nuclear facilities and take samples—such as air, water, soil, sediment, vegetation or local food—from public areas as part of the program. This work is done to verify that CNSC-regulated nuclear facilities continue to meet high standards of environmental protection.

Staff visited sites across Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan to collect samples from nature and local food products at parks, farms, lakes and beaches. In Peterborough and Pickering, Ontario, they were joined by representatives from Curve Lake First Nation, who observed and participated in the sampling activities.

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July

July

Taking regulatory action to ensure safety

On July 13, we issued formal notices to all nuclear power plant licensees in Canada, requesting further analysis on the continued safe operation of pressure tubes. This was due to Bruce Power finding elevated levels of hydrogen equivalent (Heq) in the pressure tubes of two shutdown units.

Following this regulatory action, we issued orders to Bruce Power on July 26 and to Ontario Power Generation on July 27. These orders were to ensure that any units that were offline at the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations, along with any other reactors going offline at these sites in the future, were not restarted until the Commission authorizes them to do so.

In July, the Commission also established a new External Advisory Committee on Pressure Tubes, to support Commission members by providing technical and scientific advice on pressure tubes. The committee complements the expertise of Commission members and CNSC staff, and provides an impartial, external perspective to support the Commission members in their role as decision makers.

In October, the Commission approved the restart of Bruce Power’s Unit 3 and OPG’s Pickering Unit 5.

We will never compromise safety, and if necessary, can shut down any nuclear facility or activity in order to protect the public and the environment.

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August

August

International harmonization on new technologies

In August, we completed our first collaborative activity under the 2017 Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) on Advanced Reactor and Small Modular Reactor Technologies with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The MOC is intended to enhance cooperation in areas of common interest, including aspects of reactor design, research, staff training, and the comparing of regulatory practices.

Under the MOC, we completed a joint report that compares each organization’s regulatory approaches to the review of advanced reactor and small modular reactor technologies. The report also documents commonalties and differences between the Canadian and U.S. approaches and to licensing.

The completion of this work contributes to our readiness for emerging technologies by increasing international collaboration and harmonization on safety.

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September

September

Regulating innovative technologies

In September, we issued a record of decision amending Bruce Power’s operating licence to authorize the production of lutetium-177, a medical isotope used for cancer treatment, at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, Ontario. Following a public hearing in writing that considered submissions from Bruce Power, CNSC staff and 20 intervenors, the Commission concluded that Bruce Power has or will have appropriate programs in place to safely carry out lutetium-177 production activities under the amended licence.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) also submitted a request to amend the existing operating licence for Darlington to allow for the production of the molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) isotope. Mo-99 – and more precisely, its decay product, technetium-99  – is widely used by the medical industry for diagnostic imaging. Following a public hearing in writing, which considered submissions from OPG, CNSC staff and 10 intervenors, the Commission amended the OPG power reactor operating licence to allow for the production of Mo-99 at Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. OPG will work with BWXT Nuclear Energy Company and BWXT Canada Ltd. to install an isotope irradiation system at Darlington Unit 2 to produce Mo-99. The Commission is satisfied that OPG has implemented programs for security, safeguards, and conventional health and safety to ensure the safe production of Mo-99.

The efforts of CNSC staff and the Commission to assess these medical isotope producing applications underscore our readiness to regulate innovative technologies. This important regulatory work has culminated in licence amendments for both Bruce Power and OPG and once the respective hold points are released, allow for the production of life-saving medical isotopes.

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October

October

Celebrating 75 years of nuclear regulation in Canada

October 12 marked the 75th anniversary of the Government of Canada's proclamation of the Atomic Energy Control Act. Since then, Canada has established a rich history of nuclear regulation.

The introduction of nuclear power in the 1940s brought with it a need for knowledge and oversight. In response, the Atomic Energy Control Act was proclaimed on October 12, 1946, to address the uncertainty associated with the development and rapid advancement of nuclear technology.

Since 1946, a number of major milestones have shaped the CNSC into the organization that it is today. Going beyond lessons learned from global crises such as 9/11, the Fukushima Daiichi event, or the medical isotope supply crisis, ours is a story that illustrates how the CNSC has evolved over the last 75 years.

Today, we are in the midst of an ongoing pandemic that has tested our readiness and agility. As we look to the future, we know that the nuclear sector will continue to evolve, but our commitment to safety and to Canadians will never change. The deployment of emerging technologies will present new challenges and opportunities to innovate the way we regulate, and we will continue to lead internationally in these areas while ensuring that we are ready to regulate at home.

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November

November

Engaging with international counterparts

Ongoing collaboration, information sharing and engagement are essential for nuclear regulators. November provided us with several opportunities to engage and harmonize with international counterparts on key priorities.

Our experts travelled to Vienna to attend the IAEA International Conference on a Decade of Progress after Fukushima-Daiichi. The week-long conference was an opportunity to look back, discuss lessons learned, and identify ways to further strengthen nuclear safety and security around the world.

President Velshi chaired the 3rd meeting of the IGC Impact Group on Gender Equality in Nuclear Regulatory Agencies. During the meeting, the group made great progress on establishing quantitative and qualitative parameters to track outcomes and to promote meaningful action to improve gender equality and diversity in the nuclear regulatory workforce.

President Velshi also attended the Canadian Nuclear Society G4SR-3 Summit and spoke about our readiness to regulate SMRs and other new technologies. Nuclear security, regulatory efficiency, engagement and international collaboration are all key to ensuring this readiness.

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December

December

Ensuring future readiness

Over the past 22 months, we have made adjustments to create a new normal – leveraging the quick thinking and flexibility of our employees to innovate and adopt new ways of working. This agility has enabled the organization to continue carrying out its mandate successfully and without interruption.

As we look to 2022, we are building on what we have learned to continue shaping what our new normal will look like – recognizing that the sector we regulate, as well as our operating environment, are experiencing rapid change. To remain an effective, modern and agile regulator, we know we must make transformations as an organization. With this in mind, we continue to prioritize our strategic review to prepare the organization for both anticipated and unexpected changes to the nuclear sector impacting our work over the next 5 to 10 years. The strategic review has already informed organizational realignment activities that will ensure we have the resources and structure in place to meet our goals.

We are also focusing on our leadership practices and organizational culture, and considering what our IT and physical infrastructure will look like to meet our future needs. This will help us to build a modern, inclusive, and flexible workplace in which our diverse talent and expertise will ensure we continue to fulfill our regulatory mandate.

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