International cooperation

Canada was the first country with substantial nuclear capability to reject nuclear weapons. Canada continues to be actively involved in the international promotion of the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is responsible for implementing Canada’s nuclear non-proliferation policy.

In addition, the CNSC participates in several international nuclear organizations in order to strengthen nuclear safety at home and abroad.

International Cooperation

Nuclear non-proliferation

The CNSC is responsible for implementing Canada’s nuclear non-proliferation policy, which contains two broad, long-standing objectives:

  1. to assure Canadians and the international community that Canada’s nuclear exports do not contribute to the development of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices
  2. to promote a more effective and comprehensive international nuclear non-proliferation regime

The cornerstone of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime is the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

The NPT establishes commitments to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, promote cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and achieve nuclear disarmament.

Canada is an original signatory to the NPT and has centered on the treaty’s provisions.

International  Cooperation

The CNSC, through the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA) and corresponding regulations, implements Canada’s NPT commitments:

  • not to receive, manufacture or acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices
  • to accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on all nuclear material in peaceful uses in Canada
  • to ensure that Canada’s nuclear exports to non-nuclear-weapon states are subject to IAEA safeguards

Under the NSCA and its regulations, Canadian importers and exporters are required to obtain and comply with CNSC licences controlling the international transfer of nuclear and nuclear-related items. Licensees must respect Canada’s nuclear non-proliferation commitments.

Through the licensing process, the CNSC takes steps to ensure that nuclear imports and exports are consistent with Canada’s nuclear non-proliferation policy.

The policy requires major nuclear exports to be subject to a nuclear cooperation agreement between Canada and the importing country.

These agreements establish reciprocal obligations that are designed to minimize the risk of proliferation associated with the international transfer of major nuclear items.

The CNSC participates with Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) in the negotiation of bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements and implements administrative arrangements with its foreign counterparts to effectively fulfill the terms and conditions of these agreements.

Nuclear materials verification (safeguards)

The approaches and measures utilized by the IAEA to verify that nuclear material is not diverted from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in accordance with NPT commitments are commonly referred to as “safeguards”.

In 1972, Canada was the first country to bring into force a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA pursuant to the NPT. The safeguards agreement gives the IAEA the right and obligation to monitor Canada’s nuclear-related activities and verify nuclear material inventories and flows in Canada.

In 2000, as part of worldwide efforts to strengthen IAEA safeguards, Canada brought into force the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

The Additional Protocol gives the IAEA enhanced rights of access to nuclear sites and other locations and provides it with access to information about nuclear-related activities in Canada above and beyond its rights under the original safeguards agreement.

The CNSC is responsible for implementing the Canada/IAEA safeguards agreement and the Additional Protocol. Through the NSCA, regulations and licences, the CNSC implements regulatory controls for the production, use, storage and movement of nuclear material in Canada.

Conditions for the application of IAEA safeguards are contained in nuclear facility operating licences.

Image  taken with the Digital Čerenkov Viewing Device, which was developed by the Swedish Nuclear Power  Inspectorate and the CNSC to conduct  safeguards verification
Image taken with the digital Čerenkov viewing device, which was developed by the Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate and the CNSC to conduct safeguards verification

Through its regulatory process, the CNSC ensures that all relevant licensees have in place safeguards policies and procedures that include:

  • the reporting and monitoring of nuclear material and activities
  • the provision of IAEA safeguards inspector access to nuclear facilities

The CNSC performs compliance and auditing activities to ensure licensees’ safeguards policies and procedures remain sufficient to meet the safeguards requirements of the agreement and Additional Protocol.

The CNSC maintains a national system that accounts for and controls nuclear materials in Canada, and supplies reports to the IAEA that serve as a basis for IAEA inspection and monitoring activities.

The CNSC also cooperates with the IAEA in developing new safeguards approaches for Canadian facilities and contributes to efforts to strengthen safeguards internationally.

As part of this effort, the CNSC, through its Safeguards Support Program, assists the IAEA in developing advanced safeguards equipment or techniques aimed at strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of safeguards implementation.

The program also supports domestic needs in resolving specific safeguards issues related to Canadian nuclear facilities and the use of nuclear material.

International committees and groups

The CNSC participates in a number of international committees and groups as well as international meetings and research projects committed to ensuring the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear materials and technology.

Membership and participation in these international activities ensure that the CNSC’s regulatory activities are consistent, as appropriate, with internationally agreed upon best practices and principles.

Membership and participation also ensure that CNSC guidance, policies and technical standards are current. Through the CNSC’s participation in various international nuclear fora, Canada’s position on nuclear regulatory matters is heard.

In particular, the CNSC participates in various committees and activities of the IAEA and Nuclear Energy Agency. As part of its work with these organizations, the CNSC represents Canada, or participates in broader Canadian delegations in a wide variety of relevant multilateral discussions, symposia and conferences that address such issues as:

  • the physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities
  • international transport of nuclear and other radioactive material
  • nuclear safety
  • radiation protection
  • radioactive waste management
  • nuclear safeguards
  • nuclear regulation

In 2015, the CNSC gained observer status in the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association (WENRA). The CNSC made the request to become an observer, to promote the exchange of experiences with fellow regulators and learn from international best practices. As an observer, the CNSC will have the opportunity to participate in WENRA's working groups on reactor harmonization and on waste and decommissioning.

The CNSC also participates with Global Affairs Canada in two multilateral nuclear export control mechanisms: the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Zangger Committee. Canada was a founding member of both these bodies.

The CNSC contributes technical and policy expertise in meetings and working groups of these committees to:

  • ensure that the guidelines established by these bodies relating to conditions of nuclear supply effectively address proliferation threats
  • ensure that the lists of controlled items take into account advances in nuclear and nuclear-related technology

The implementation of the CNSC’s statutory responsibilities for the regulation of Canadian nuclear exports is consistent with the guidelines of these bodies.

IAEA Integrated Regulatory Review Service mission to Canada

IAEA Integrated Regulatory Review Service mission to Canada

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) is one of the services offered to Member States by the IAEA.

The purpose of an IRRS mission is to compare the regulatory practices of a country with international standards and equivalent good practices elsewhere in the world.

A history of the IRRS at the CNSC

In November 2005, the CNSC initiated an IRRS mission of the CNSC’s regulatory regime and processes by an international team of experts selected by the IAEA. The IAEA’s IRRS guidelines include the expectation that host countries conduct a follow-up mission. Canada hosted its IRRS follow-up mission in December 2011 (see phase 3 below).

The review took place in three phases.

Phase 1, the self-assessment phase, was originally conducted in 2006 with a focus on the regulation of power reactors. A complementary self-assessment that extended to the Directorate of Nuclear Substance Regulation and the Directorate of Nuclear Cycle and Facilities Regulation was completed in 2008.

Phase 2, the initial peer review, was completed in June 2009. The resulting IRRS report to the Government of Canada provides the record of the peer review and includes an addendum that describes the initial response of CNSC management to each finding of the review team.
Read the IRRS 2009 Peer Review Report and CNSC Management Response (PDF, 827 KB, 127 pages).

Phase 3, completed in December 2011, consisted of a follow-up evaluation of the CNSC’s progress against phase 2 findings. In addition, the review team assessed the CNSC’s response to the spring 2011 events at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The team also assessed Canada’s regulatory practices related to the packaging and transport of nuclear substances.

Read the 2011 IRRS Follow-up Mission Report (PDF, 2,537 KB, 106 pages) and CNSC Management Response (PDF).
All actions items resulting from the IRRS peer reviews are now closed.

About the IRRS peer review

IRRS mission peer review teams comprise senior regulators recruited by the IAEA from other Member States. Review team members act on behalf of the IAEA, not on behalf of their own countries, while on the mission.

The review team is accompanied by IAEA staff who coordinate their activities and provide administrative support. IAEA staff also participate in the review activities.