Notes for remarks by Michael Binder, President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am pleased to be here today to discuss the role of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (the CNSC) and Bill C-20.
With me today is Mr. Peter Elder, Director General of the Directorate of Nuclear Cycle and Facilities Regulation at the CNSC.
CNSC: Ensuring Safety to Prevent Liability Claims
As you know, the CNSC is Canada’s nuclear regulator, and nuclear regulation is exclusively a federal jurisdiction. We regulate all nuclear activities in Canada including those facilities covered by the proposed legislation.
The CNSC’s mandate is very clear: We regulate for the protection of health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment, as well as to respect Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
In essence, Mr. Chairman, the CNSC works every day to ensure safety across Canada’s nuclear industry – every licensing action, every inspection, every audit, every compliance activity is designed to mitigate risks and to minimize the probability of incidents that could result in claims under the proposed legislation.
Our job, along with the nuclear facilities operators, is to ensure that this legislation is never used and that no claims are ever filed. Nevertheless, we recognize the need for insurance, and are therefore very supportive of this proposed legislation.
Committed to Modern Framework
As the Minister stated in her appearance to open the Committee’s consideration of Bill C-20, Canada’s nuclear regulatory framework is embodied in three pieces of federal legislation:
The Government of Canada recently hosted an international peer review by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of Canada’s nuclear regulatory framework. Their report, which will be published soon, commended Canada for maintaining a modern regulatory framework; a framework that is based on safety culture.
Safety through Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA)
Canada has an impressive, internationally recognized track record for nuclear safety and reliability.
Our oversight is prescribed by the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA). Coming into force in 2000, it is a modern legislation which sets high-level safety requirements and a strict licensing and compliance framework which the CNSC manages on a daily basis.
It enables us to ensure that the nuclear industry is safe and secure, and that the environment and the health of Canadians are protected.
Mr. Chairman, the CNSC oversees approximately 3,300 licences across 2,100 licensees. Last year, we deployed 800 staff, including 150 inspectors conducting over 2000 inspections of various types, to ensure compliance.
Our framework is designed to mitigate risk to health and safety. Our licensees must have a strong safety culture and be safe – otherwise, they would not receive a licence from us!
We look in detail at what could potentially go wrong with the facilities and require licensees to have multiple barriers, both physical and procedural, to limit the probability of a serious incident.
Through the oversight of our on-site staff our on-going compliance program then ensures that all these safety protocols remain effective and in place. The CNSC pushes licensees to continuously improve operational performance as new information and technology become available.
I would also like to stress for the Committee the importance of transparency in ensuring trust in our activities. The CNSC conducts public hearings in renewing licences for major facilities. In fact, Mr. Chairman, the last three Commission hearings have been on-the-road – in Saskatchewan and Bruce County last month and in Port Hope in August. These hearings are open to the public and are webcast. And I hope you’ve had the opportunity to catch one of these broadcasts off our Web site.
Appropriate Role for the CNSC under the NLCA
Turning to today’s subject and Bill C-20, the CNSC’s role concerning nuclear liability is clarified under the proposed legislation.
Under the current Nuclear Liability Act, which has been in force since 1976, the CNSC (and its predecessor, the AECB) has been responsible for both the administration of the legislation and for the designation of facilities.
As an aside, I am pleased to report, Mr. Chairman, that during our tenure as administrator of the Nuclear Liability Act, no claims were ever made under this Act. And we look forward to a similar track record in the future.
It is also interesting that the legislation has been under review since the 1980s and that we’re here today, finally, modernizing the legislation.
The CNSC is supportive of the new legislation and of our new, reduced role. We would no longer designate the facilities and we would no longer be the administrative authority for the legislation.
The primary role for the CNSC under the proposed legislation would be to support and provide technical advice to the Minister of Natural Resources on the designation of sites. Because we licence all nuclear facilities in Canada, the CNSC is in the best position to know which ones are authorized to have fissile material, a pre-requisite for the requirement for nuclear liability insurance.
There are currently 19 sites designated – and we will continue under the new legislation to provide advice on these designations to the government.
The CNSC has worked with NRCan through the development of the proposed legislation and has established formal working relationships to assist in the development of regulations to designate sites.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, we have been regulating nuclear facilities in Canada for over 63 years. Our track record for safety is excellent.
Canada must continue to demonstrate responsible leadership in its nuclear sector and its regulatory framework – and modernizing the nuclear liability regime is a step in continuous improvement and clarity – which are hallmarks of our approach to ensuring safety for Canadians.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me the opportunity to speak about nuclear safety in the context of the consideration on the proposed legislation.