The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Laboratory

The CNSC Laboratory supports the CNSC by providing sample analysis and radiation instrument calibration services. It provides advanced radiation instrument training and expert services in the fields of radiochemistry, chemistry, radiation physics and nuclear forensics. Furthermore, the laboratory maintains a repository of radiation sources, which are used in training and exercises held by CNSC staff.

In 2009, the CNSC and Government of Canada invested in the renovation, refitting and equipping of a vacant laboratory space at the Natural Resources Canada Limebank Road site in Ottawa. The CNSC Laboratory moved from Tunney’s Pasture to the Limebank location in 2010.

Laboratory activities

The laboratory plays an important role in the CNSC’s Independent Environmental Monitoring Program (IEMP). The IEMP is designed to verify that public health and the environment around licensed nuclear facilities are protected. Types of samples taken by CNSC staff typically include air, water, soil, vegetation, and locally farmed and wild food. CNSC scientists process the samples at the laboratory, and test for radiological (nuclear) and non-radiological (hazardous) substances related to the operation of a nuclear facility.

The laboratory’s state-of-the-art instrument calibration facility enables it to test radiation instruments to ensure that they are reading radiation levels accurately. Once the radiation instrument is calibrated, it is stored until put into use by CNSC inspectors in the field. The Laboratory maintains an inventory of approximately 400 radiation instruments used to detect and measure gamma, beta, alpha and neutron radiation.

Memberships and affiliations

The CNSC Laboratory is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency Network of Analytical Laboratories for the Measurement of Environmental Radioactivity (ALMERA) in water, food, and soil. Regular inspections and evaluations verify that CNSC licensees are operating safely and complying with laws and regulations, as well as adhering to their licence conditions. To verify compliance, CNSC inspectors often take samples that are analyzed at the CNSC Laboratory. These samples come from CNSC licensees, such as hospitals, universities and waste management facilities.

The CNSC Laboratory is a member of Canada’s Nuclear Forensic Laboratory network and has developed and exercised significant capability for nuclear forensic sample analysis. In the case of any illicit activity involving nuclear or radioactive material, the laboratory may be called upon to contribute to investigations by analyzing samples and providing information to law enforcement authorities.

The laboratory also collaborates with universities, domestic and international laboratories, and other Canadian government laboratories to provide research and training opportunities for students and scientists working in areas of nuclear and radiological safety and security.

Accreditation

The CNSC Laboratory has ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accreditation, the current international standard used to evaluate testing and calibration laboratories. The CNSC Laboratory was required to demonstrate its ability to produce precise and accurate test and calibration data and to show the technical competence of staff with respect to calibration of working measurement standards, gamma survey meters, and personal electronic dosimeters.

This accreditation, under certificate number 2016-05, was granted by the Standards Council of Canada and National Research Council Canada’s Calibration Laboratory Assessment Service.

The CNSC Laboratory was the first in Canada to receive accreditation for calibration of working measurement standards and survey instruments for gamma measurement and is the only federal government facility to carry this accreditation.

The laboratory is also a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and World Health Organization’s network of Secondary Standards Dosimetry Laboratories (SSDLs).

The IAEA/WHO Network of SSDLs is a global network of laboratories that promotes and standardizes international knowledge in dosimetry for radiotherapy and ionization radiation applications. This network makes recommendations for improvement in measurement accuracy, precision, traceability, consistency, staff competency, international comparison exercises, proficiency testing, and metrological cooperation. Full members of the network comply with the IAEA/WHO Network Charter and are also required to follow the SSDL Network Charter. As a network member, the CNSC Laboratory has the opportunity to strengthen international partnerships, as well as to contribute to and have an influence in an exceptional global forum of dosimetry services.

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