The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission – highlights of 2022
Modernizing the Commission to be more responsive and transparent
Recognizing the importance of women in STEM
Russian invasion of Ukraine
Celebrating our expert workforce
Enhancing our readiness to regulate small modular reactors
Building relationships with Indigenous Nations and communities
Demonstrating leadership internationally on radioactive waste
Promoting peaceful use of nuclear energy
Engaging with international counterparts through the Country-Specific Safety Culture Forum and other fora
Regulatory oversight of radioactive waste and isotope production
Advancing the regulation of new nuclear technologies, in Canada and internationally
Boosting accessibility for all
As Canada’s nuclear regulator, we had a memorable 2022, featuring many unique and remarkable milestones. These milestones demonstrate that the CNSC is a modern, forward-looking organization that upholds its status as a world-class nuclear regulator.
In a very eventful year, we never wavered in meeting our commitment to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment. We invite you to take a few moments to browse through our list of accomplishments in 2022.
January – Modernizing the Commission to be more responsive and transparent
On January 1, the Commission Secretariat and Secretary became the Commission Registry and Registrar. While this does not affect how participants in proceedings interact with the Commission, it signals the commitment to increased transparency and improved access to documents used in Commission proceedings. The name change reflects the focus on the fact that the Commission is a court of record, and also gives the Commission Registrar a new formal legal advisory role to assist the Commission by ensuring that rules of procedural fairness are respected. This safeguards the separation between the Commission and CNSC staff, maintaining the independence of the Commission and its proceedings, and ensuring legal oversight and governance of the Commission’s functions. This shift is part of our move to modernize the Commission’s processes to be responsive to expectations of clarity, transparency and information access, as well as to meet challenges as the nuclear sector continues to evolve.
In 2022, the Registry also used a new issues-based approach to setting its agenda for the NSDF hearing and allowed for intervenors to file questions. Intervenors will also be given the opportunity to make final written submissions before a decision is made. Changes like this are part of the evolution of the public Commission process, which includes being responsive to requests from participants for more clarity and options to participate.
February – Recognizing the importance of women in STEM
As a regulator, we know that diverse perspectives are key to further strengthening our healthy safety culture, encouraging innovation and collaboration, and supporting better decision making. Diverse voices – including those of women, who are historically under-represented in nuclear – bring a broader range of viewpoints and ideas, resulting in better safety outcomes. That’s why we frequently participate in initiatives intended to increase equity, diversity and inclusion within the nuclear sector and to leverage opportunities at speaking engagements, which allow us to connect with women interested in working in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Since its inception in 2020, President Rumina Velshi has been an active leader of the Driving the Advancement of Women in Nuclear (DAWN) group, which aims to empower women to build their careers in the nuclear sector. Under President Velshi’s leadership, the CNSC also continues to lead initiatives such as the International Gender Champions Impact Group on Gender Equality in Nuclear Regulatory Agencies – a community of heads of nuclear regulatory agencies and organizations committed to addressing gender issues in their institutions, countries and with international partners.
In advance of National Engineering Month in March, President Rumina Velshi and Vice-President and Chief Science Officer Peter Elder – in partnership with Carleton University’s Women in Engineering and IT Program – met with engineering students in February, to about the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion in STEM fields and to highlight the benefits of STEM-related careers. In addition, the CNSC partnered with National Engineering Month Ontario to host a speed-networking event for young professionals considering a career in STEM. This event highlighted great mentors and role models, including 3 of our very own staff members.
March – Russian invasion of Ukraine
On February 24, Russia began a military invasion of Ukraine, launching attacks on many cities – putting the country’s 4 nuclear power plants at risk.
We immediately began to actively monitor the situation while consulting with our federal and international counterparts and receiving regular updates as the situation unfolded, to anticipate potential impacts for Canadians not only here at home, but also those abroad in Europe.
As Canada’s nuclear regulator, our job was to disseminate information as accurately and in as timely a manner as possible. This included responding to media inquiries and conducting interviews with national and local outlets to provide information about the evolving situation and to reassure to Canadians about the safety and security of nuclear power plants in Canada.
On March 3, we released our first of many public statements about the ongoing situation in Ukraine. As a member of the International Nuclear Regulators Association, we, along with the 8 other member countries, offered our expertise and support to Ukraine’s nuclear regulator to ensure the continued safety of its nuclear facilities. Throughout the conflict, the International Atomic Energy Agency has provided the world with the most trusted and credible source of information on nuclear safety in Ukraine. Our focus continues to be on ensuring transparency, global collaboration and effective public communication as we monitor the safety of nuclear facilities in Ukraine.
We are also using this experience to revisit our approaches to nuclear security, particularly in the context of active warfare, both in Canada and internationally.
April – Celebrating our expert workforce
With over 900 professionals located across the country, our organization has diverse, hardworking and dedicated employees who work to ensure the safety of Canadians and our environment. CNSC employees do important and challenging work and are experts in their respective fields, working in collaboration to fulfill our mandate.
As a result of such talent and expertise, many CNSC individuals and groups were bestowed with awards during 2022. One such example was the Government of Canada’s Comptroller General honouring Bibi Roy with the Internal Audit Vision Award for her leadership among her peers – as part of a trend of acknowledgement by the federal family that our internal audit and evaluation team is best-in-class and something to be proud of. We were also proud of Radiation and Health Sciences Specialist Julie Burtt who received a much-deserved Rising Star Achievement Award for her professional excellence and leadership from the University of Ottawa at their Alumni Awards of Distinction gala.
We are committed to creating a safe, diverse and inclusive work environment for all our employees so that we can attract the best and the brightest in their fields. In April, we hosted our first Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Fair with several presentations for employees, while also launching 3 new employee networks – the Diverse Employee Network, the Pride Network and the Accessibility Network. Nearly 700 staff members were provided a safe space to ask questions, to create networking opportunities and to continue building a community for equity-seeking groups.
Prioritizing equity, diversity and inclusion benefits our organizational culture while allowing us to improve in our role as a regulator: bringing together diverse voices and perspectives strengthens our work and increases innovation, while ensuring that our employees feel safe and empowered to grow and do their best work. Moreover, having a diverse and inclusive workplace enables us to be in tune with the broader needs of the population, as a regulator with a commitment to being of service to Canadians.
May – Enhancing our readiness to regulate small modular reactors
May saw a significant focus on small modular reactors (SMRs) and our readiness to regulate this new technology. Taking advantage of the opportunity to attend a number of international conferences, we emphasized our preparedness for SMRs and highlighted the need to strengthen international collaboration and the importance of global standardization.
During a panel discussion at the Reuters Events SMR & Advanced Reactor 2022 Conference, President Rumina Velshi provided an overview of our SMR regulatory readiness activities and highlighted the importance of international collaboration and information sharing, noting that regulators cannot work in isolation. She also emphasized the value of the memorandum of cooperation between the CNSC and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which aims to enhance technical reviews of advanced reactor and SMR technologies.
As we continue to prepare for the future, we remain focused on ensuring that no unnecessary barriers will impede the regulatory process for SMRs. The nuclear sector continued to evolve this year as the Government of Canada made important investments in SMRs, allocating $50 million toward the CNSC in support of its readiness to regulate advanced reactor technologies. This federal funding has helped us in preparing for and building our capacity to assess expected licence applications for SMRs. This capacity is particularly important given that the proposed project at Darlington in Ontario received almost $1 billion in federal funding: if this project is granted a licence by the Commission, it will make Canada a G-7 leader in the deployment of grid-scale SMRs (that is, small modular reactors that form part of the electricity grid), and appropriate regulatory attention will be required.
June – Building relationships with Indigenous Nations and communities
In June we recognized National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day while continuing our ongoing efforts to consult, engage and build relationships with Indigenous groups in Canada. This included working towards formalizing arrangements for long-term engagement with a number of Indigenous Nations and communities. In 2022, we signed terms of reference for agreements with the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation and the Athabasca Dene First Nations represented by the Ya’thi Néné Lands and Resources Office. These agreements provide a structured forum for ongoing dialogue and collaboration.
In June, we also started our Independent Environmental Monitoring Program 2022 sampling campaign tour, with staff visiting communities across Canada to collect samples, to verify the safety of people and the environment near nuclear facilities and sites. This program helps to build trust with Indigenous Nations and communities as we work directly with communities to develop and execute site-specific sampling plans. Many Indigenous communities were involved in hands-on field work to collect samples of air, water, soil, sand, sediment, vegetation and food as well as traditional and medicinal foods and plants.
We were also happy to announce our plans this month to host Canada’s first Nuclear Energy Agency International Mentoring Workshop, which will be co-chaired by President Velshi; Emily Whetung-MacInnes, Chief Emeritus of Curve Lake First Nation; and Yeonhee Hah, Vice President of the Korea Institute for Nuclear Safety. Scheduled for May 2023, the workshop will bring together Indigenous girls and accomplished STEM mentors, weaving Indigenous knowledge with western science to engage participants and inspire them to consider STEM-related careers.
July – Demonstrating leadership internationally on radioactive waste
The month of July was focused on our work in international safety by participating at the Seventh Review Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management (Joint Convention). The Joint Convention, to which Canada is a contracting party, is an international agreement governing all aspects of spent fuel and radioactive waste management safety.
Our Executive Vice-President and Chief Regulatory Operations Officer Ramzi Jammal represented Canada as the head of the Canadian delegation at the Seventh Review Meeting, held in Vienna, Austria. He was joined by CNSC experts on waste and decommissioning, other government agencies and industry responsible for waste management. In his presentation, Mr. Jammal touched on Canada’s responses to the challenges identified at a previous meeting, related to decommissioning and remediation, finding a site for spent fuel and developing a waste management strategy. He also provided an update on planned measures to improve safety through the modernization of our regulatory framework and implementation of the Impact Assessment Act. He also discussed plans for Canada during the next review cycle and reiterated Canada’s commitment to safe radioactive waste management. These key initiatives demonstrate our commitment to identifying and implementing long-term radioactive waste management approaches that do not place an undue burden on future generations.
The CNSC is expected to lead the next Joint Convention meeting in 2025, as it continues to be an active Contracting Party to the Joint Convention and a global leader in radioactive waste management.
August – Promoting peaceful use of nuclear energy
A vital element of our mandate is to ensure the peaceful and safe use of nuclear energy and its applications. Our participation in the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference was key to this objective. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the cornerstone of global nuclear non-proliferation efforts, targeting three areas – non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful use of nuclear energy. Every 5 years, parties to the treaty hold a review conference to assess its implementation and to work towards strengthening it.
During this year’s review conference, CNSC experts in security and safeguards joined the Canadian delegation, participating in meetings, negotiations and discussions, in addition to representing Canada at various side events during the conference. Director General, Kathleen Heppell-Masys delivered Canada’s national statement in the opening session of the peaceful uses Committee in addition to interventions during the negotiating sessions. She also participated in the side event, “Nuclear Security: A Foundational Element of the Non-Proliferation Regime”. Her remarks stressed the importance of trust, confidence and assurance for ensuring nuclear security enhances the NPT’s objectives. President Rumina Velshi also attended the conference, speaking as a panelist at a United Nations Side event, “From Pillars to Progress: Gender Mainstreaming in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” delivering remarks and engaging in a panel discussion during the session, which looked to identify concrete measures that can further advance gender diversity within the NPT review cycle.
President Velshi spoke to how the values of equity, diversity and inclusion advance Canada’s efforts to implement obligations under the NPT, by supporting a strong safety culture, innovation and resilience. She took the opportunity to speak about the many efforts she herself has championed to increase equity within the nuclear sector.
September – Engaging with international counterparts through the Country-Specific Safety Culture Forum and other fora
September provided us with several opportunities to engage and collaborate with our international counterparts on key safety-related priorities. At the start of the month, we hosted Canada’s first Country-Specific Safety Culture Forum. This 2-day event, organized by the Nuclear Energy Agency and the World Association of Nuclear Operators, aimed to explore how our country’s national characteristics influence its nuclear safety culture and brought together representatives from across Canada’s nuclear sector, as well as international regulators who provided diverse views and perspectives. The discussions and lessons learned were invaluable, and will serve to help strengthen safety culture within the Canadian nuclear sector.
Later in September, we travelled to Vienna to participate in the 66th International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference. The week-long conference offered a number of opportunities to connect with international colleagues and discuss topics of mutual importance. Key items of interest included waste management and small modular reactor readiness, and how regulators can and should work together towards global readiness for new reactor technologies. There were also opportunities to speak about diversity within the nuclear sector, as well as the ongoing situation in Ukraine and how the international regulatory community can provide support. While in Vienna, President Rumina Velshi chaired the 50th meeting of the International Nuclear Regulators Association where like-minded regulators from around the world shared information and best practices for improving global nuclear safety and security.
October – Regulatory oversight of radioactive waste and isotope production
On October 4, the Office of the Auditor General’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development tabled an audit in Parliament. This audit found that the CNSC “did a good job of managing the low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste that makes up 99.5% of Canada’s radioactive waste output.”
The audit also found that our staff applied an approach in proportion with the nature of the waste and the complexity of the activities when verifying compliance of facilities that manage low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste. Our staff were also deemed to use systematic, documented processes when developing risk-based plans for their compliance verification activities.
We welcomed this audit as it was an opportunity to receive feedback on how we could improve. We remain steadfast in our commitment to maintaining strong regulatory oversight, and to further enhancing this oversight as it relates to radioactive waste.
In 2022, we also saw the culmination of work related to medical isotope production – Lu-177 at Bruce Power’s Bruce Nuclear Generating Station and Moly-99 at OPG’s Darlington Nuclear Generating Station – and this resulted in the lifting of regulatory hold points. Not only were these medical isotope projects only innovative on the part of the licensees, but they also demonstrated our ability to modernize existing processes. This agility allowed us to communicate clear regulatory expectations to the licensees and to maintain our highest standards of regulatory trust and transparency.
November – Advancing the regulation of new nuclear technologies, in Canada and internationally
November started with an important regulatory milestone – our receipt of the first application for a licence to construct a small modular reactor for the Darlington New Nuclear Project. The application is currently under review, and is the first of many milestones as we prepare for the deployment of SMRs in Canada and globally.
In November, we also continued our international engagement and collaboration through a number of events. We connected with experts from around the world and explored the future of radiological protection at the ICRP2021+1 Symposium. We co-sponsored this event, which was held in Vancouver, British Columbia, with the Canadian Radiation Protection Association. The overarching theme of ICRP2021+1 was Radiological Protection – The Next Generation, reflecting the need to review and refine the System of Radiological Protection over the coming decade to ensure that it remains fit for purpose for the next generation. This includes empowering the industry to achieve our full potential for an inclusive and gender-balanced workplace.
The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) Workshop on the Management of Spent Fuel, Radioactive Waste and Decommissioning in SMRs and Advanced Reactor Technologies took place in Ottawa, offering another opportunity for international collaboration in a number of key areas. The NEA also hosted an International Conference on Regulators’ Views on Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection in Fukushima, Japan, where President Velshi participated in various panel and topical discussions on themes such as the importance of public trust and gender equity. Finally, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) held its Symposium on International Safeguards, the theme for 2022 was Reflecting on the Past and Anticipating the Future, providing the Canadian delegation with the opportunity to collaborate with international stakeholders to anticipate and plan for challenges and opportunities in nuclear non-proliferation.
We ended the year with an important first: the publication of our inaugural accessibility plan in December.
The CNSC Accessibility Plan 2022–25 marked the culmination of a year-long review by our Accessibility Plan Working Group – in consultation with people living with disabilities, and their allies – to identify barriers to accessibility within our work environment. The plan was prepared in response to the landmark Accessible Canada Act to make Canada barrier-free by 2040.
The plan outlines an ambitious and achievable action plan for identifying, removing and preventing physical, systemic and cultural barriers to accessibility across our organization. It also ensures that everyone who engages with us – licensees, participant funding program applicants, Indigenous Nations and communities, members of the public or other stakeholders – will have barrier-free access to full participation in our public programs, hearings and compliance activities. The plan supports our equity, diversity and inclusion goals, and it builds on our commitment to create a welcoming, inclusive and supportive environment where everyone has an equal chance to succeed.
We look forward to putting the plan’s recommendations into action over the next 3 years as we continue to create an inclusive workplace and to build a workforce that fully reflects Canada’s diverse society.
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