New reactor facilities

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) makes independent, fair and transparent decisions on licensing new reactor facilities. For further details, see Licensing process for Class 1A facilities.

The CNSC provides an optional pre-licensing vendor design review (VDR) process for vendors of reactor designs. The VDR process – which takes place prior to entering the licensing process – provides an early opportunity for vendors of a reactor technology to engage with the CNSC and to seek clarity on regulatory requirements and expectations of their design. A VDR does not result in any decision by the Commission under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and is cost recovered from the vendor under the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Cost Recovery Fee Regulations (Part 5, Special Project Fees). For further details see Pre-licensing vendor design reviews.

Current licensing activities

  • On March 20, 2019, Global First Power submitted an application for a licence to prepare site for a small modular reactor on Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s property at the Chalk River Laboratories location. The CNSC licensing process begins with a sufficiency review of the application. If and when the project description is assessed as complete, the next step would be to issue a notice of commencement. The project description would then become available for public comment as part of the environmental assessment process.
  • Ontario Power Generation has notified CNSC of its intent to renew its licence to prepare site for the Darlington New Nuclear Project issued from August 17, 2012 to August 17, 2022

Current pre-licensing vendor design reviews (VDRs)

Licensing process for Class IA facilities:

All reactor facilities are Class IA facilities under the Class I Nuclear Facilities Regulations.

These include:

  • small modular reactors
  • research reactors
  • prototype new reactor (fission or fusion) designs for the purposes of gathering scientific knowledge
  • reactor facilities (fission or fusion) of all sizes used for commercial purposes

For information on an overview of the licensing process for new nuclear facilities, please see REGDOC‑3.5.1, Licensing Process for Class I Nuclear Facilities and Uranium Mines and Mills, version 2.

The Commission is the CNSC’s decision-making body and makes licensing decisions from initial application to abandonment.

Decisions made by the Commission take into consideration:

  • regulatory requirements
  • analyses and recommendations from CNSC staff based on their assessment of both licensee and stakeholder submissions to the Commission
  • best available information, arising from regulatory research or credible research by third parties
  • public input

Regulatory framework

The CNCS’s regulatory framework includes guidance, which is used to inform the applicant or licensee on how to meet requirements, elaborate further on requirements, or provide information on best practices.

While the CNSC sets requirements and provides guidance on how to meet requirements, an applicant or licensee may put forward a case to demonstrate that the intent of a requirement is addressed by other means. Such a case must be demonstrated with supportable evidence. CNSC staff consider guidance when evaluating the adequacy of any case submitted. This does not mean that the requirement is waived; rather, it is an indication that the regulatory framework provides flexibility for licensees to propose alternative means of achieving the intent of the requirement. The Commission is always the final authority as to whether the requirement has been met.

Applying for a licence under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act

Applicants wishing to carry out licensed activities are expected to use the following licence application guides for regulatory expectations on the information to be submitted for a licence. Licence application guides point to key regulatory documents by relevant activities.

Licensed activity


Applicant must demonstrate

Site preparation REGDOC-1.1.1, Site Evaluation and Site Preparation for New Reactor Facilities Suitability of proposed site for construction and operation of the nuclear facility, considering the activities involved in preparing the site (for example, land clearing and building services requirements) and; adequate consultation of stakeholders and consideration of their views (potentially affected public, Indigenous groups, etc).
Construction GD-369, Licence Application Guide: Licence to Construct a Nuclear Power Plant

Proposed facility design conforms to regulatory requirements and will provide for safe operation over the proposed plant life and; responsibility for all activities pertaining to design, procurement, manufacturing, construction and commissioning


When applying for a licence to construct, a preliminary safety analysis report (PSAR) is required under section 5(f) of the Class I Nuclear Facilities Regulations.

The PSAR must include:

  • the deterministic safety analysis
  • a probabilistic safety assessment
  • a hazards analysis
Please note that before CNSC staff begin assessing the PSAR, design information, as specified in sections 5(a), 5(b), 5(d), 5(e) and 5(g) of the Class I Nuclear Facilities Regulations, must also be submitted.
Operation REGDOC-1.1.3, Licence Application Guide: Licence to Operate a Nuclear Power Plant Appropriate safety management systems, plans and programs have been established and; resolution of outstanding issues from construction stage.

Environmental assessments

A licence under the NSCA cannot be granted unless a decision is made under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) that the project is not likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects, taking mitigation measures into account.

The CNSC conducts reviews of environmental assessments for designated projects under CEAA 2012 as a planning and decision-making tool. An EA is carried out at the beginning of a project and considers the entire lifecycle of a project.

Visit the Environmental assessments page for more information.

Aboriginal consultation

The CNSC ensures that all its licensing decisions under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA) and environmental assessment decisions under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 uphold the honour of the Crown and consider Aboriginal peoples' potential or established Aboriginal or treaty rights pursuant to section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 (together, the "Aboriginal interests").

Visit the Aboriginal consultation page for more information.

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