2019 IRRS Report to Canada - executive summary

At the request of the Government of Canada, an international team of senior nuclear and radiation safety experts met with representatives of the Government of Canada from 3 to 13 September 2019 to conduct an Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission.

Participating authorities included the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and Health Canada (HC).

The mission took place in Ottawa, Canada. The purpose of the IRRS mission was to perform a peer review of Canada’s regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety against IAEA safety standards as the international benchmark for safety. The mission was also used to exchange information and experience between the IRRS team members and the Canadian counterparts in the areas covered by the IRRS.

The IRRS team consisted of 20 senior regulatory experts from 17 IAEA Member States and four IAEA staff members.

The IRRS team carried out the review in the following areas: responsibilities and functions of the government, the global safety regime, responsibilities and functions of the regulatory body, the management system of the regulatory body, the activities of the regulatory body including authorization, review and assessment, inspection and enforcement, regulations and guides. The review also included the optional module 11 on nuclear safety and security interface. Facilities, activities and exposure situations within the scope of the mission included all those regulated at the federal level by CNSC: nuclear power plants, fuel cycle facilities, research reactors, waste management facilities, decommissioning activities, transport of radioactive material, radiation sources applications (radioactive sources and particle accelerators), planned and existing occupational and public exposure situations.

Facilities and activities with particle accelerators below 1MV, medical exposure, and specific areas of the existing exposure situations, regulated at provincial or territorial level were out of the scope of the mission. In addition, and as agreed with the Canadian counterparts responsible for the Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV) and those responsible for the Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS), Module 10 (EPR) of the IRRS was included in the Canada EPREV and excluded from the scope of Canada IRRS mission.

The IRRS mission included discussion of two policy issues: “Readiness for innovation from the regulator’s perspective”; and “Opportunities to strengthen the CNSC’s regulatory safety oversight culture”.

The IRRS team conducted interviews and discussions with the staff of CNSC and representatives of HC and NRCan. Members of the team also observed regulatory inspection activities at operating power and research reactors, conversion facility, radioactive waste management facilities, decommissioning activities, research centres, a University hospital, a nuclear processing facility, a radioactive sources producer with transportation activities also, an industrial radiography facility and an industrial irradiator, in Ontario and Quebec. The visits also included discussions with the authorized parties – licensees’ personnel and management.

In preparation for the IRRS mission, Canada conducted a self-assessment and prepared a preliminary action plan to address areas that were identified for improvement. The results of the self-assessment and supporting documentation were provided to the team as advance reference material for the mission. Throughout the mission, the IRRS team was extended full cooperation in the regulatory, technical, and policy issues by all parties in a very open and transparent manner.

The IRRS team acknowledged the outstanding efforts of the participating authorities to engage in this extensive international peer review. The participation by the above organisations enabled the team to develop a broad understanding of the regulatory framework resulting in recommendations and suggestions that should benefit nuclear and radiation safety for all in Canada.

Canada has a comprehensive and robust regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety covering current facilities and activities. The CNSC strives to continuously upgrade its regulatory framework to address new challenges and upcoming technologies,

The IRRS team identified the following good practices:

  • The CNSC, in partnership with other organisations, has established a comprehensive programme for dealing with historic radium devices in the public domain
  • The CNSC has a comprehensive system for collecting, analysing and sharing regulatory experience feedback.
  • The CNSC is very committed to ensuring a high level of transparency and openness with the public, stakeholders and interested parties about its regulatory activities and decisions.
  • The CNSC proactively developed extensive guidance and processes to assist potential applicants determine the content of the small modular reactor application for authorization.
  • The CNSC performs peer reviews for certification of transport packages to minimize the risk associated with the certification of higher risk designs.
  • HC has undertaken effective programme for raising awareness of radon through strategic and targeted messaging to the public.

The most significant challenges to Canada relate to the enhancement of the national policy and strategy for the radioactive waste management and the alignment of radiation protection requirements with IAEA safety standard GSR Part 3.

The IRRS team made recommendations and suggestions that indicate where improvements are necessary or desirable to continue enhancing the effectiveness of regulatory functions in line with IAEA safety standards. The IRRS team recognized that some of its findings also endorsed the actions identified by Canada as a result of its self-assessment. The IRRS team also identified some other areas for improvement including:

  • The CNSC should:
    • Establish public exposure dose constraints for all Class I type facilities.
    • Align transportation regulatory documents with IAEA SSR-6.

The IRRS team findings are summarized in Appendix IV.

An IAEA press release was issued at the end of the IRRS Mission.

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