Highlights of the 2014–15 CNSC Annual Report

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Annual Report 2014–15 Highlights
Regulating Nuclear Safety in Canada
Remote-handling facilities at Chalk River Laboratories for examining and testing irradiated materials and equipment

Highlights from the message from the President

It is my honour and a pleasure to present the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) Annual Report for 2014–15, with the theme of regulating nuclear safety in Canada. Our work – from licensing to compliance of nuclear activities, to maintaining and developing regulatory instruments and engaging stakeholders – involves a wealth of complex efforts necessary for an effective, successful regulatory regime.

CNSC President
Nuclear Generating Station

Highlights from the message from the President

In the past year, the Commission held public hearings for several major facilities and its decisions included the lifting of a hold point on the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station licence, which allowed the licensee to extend the operating life of its pressure tubes. The Commission also held the first part of a public hearing to renew the operating licence for the Bruce A and B Nuclear Generating Stations.

Highlights from the message from the President

I am very proud of our organization’s international efforts. These include the continuing review of lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear accident, preparation for the implementation of the Canada–India appropriate arrangement, and contributions to leading international peer reviews to India and the United Arab Emirates, aimed at strengthening global nuclear safety.

Panel
Office Team

Highlights from the message from the President

On the national scene, we continue to place great emphasis on emergency preparedness management. We were a key player in Exercise Unified Response, a major emergency exercise that simulated a severe accident at a nuclear generating station. We also established new requirements for the pre-distribution of potassium iodide pills near nuclear generating stations.

Highlights from the message from the President

In addition to these large initiatives and special projects, the bulk of our day-to-day work entails oversight of nearly 2,000 licensees, to ensure the continued safety of all nuclear activities in Canada. Our ongoing efforts and commitment to safety are reflected in the Canadian nuclear industry’s excellent safety record. Our goal is to maintain this success as we continue to strive toward being the best nuclear regulator in the world.

Nuclear Inspection
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Annual Report 2014–15 Highlights
CNSC at a glance
A CNSC inspector and a worker from NB Power at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station, New Brunswick

Who we are

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regulates all nuclear facilities and activities in Canada – known as the nuclear fuel cycle.

Safety
Processing

What is the nuclear fuel cycle?

Nuclear safety means protecting Canadians at every stage in the nuclear fuel cycle – not just monitoring nuclear power stations. The CNSC regulates the entire process, from uranium mining, the collection of nuclear by-products for use in nuclear medicine and research, to the management and disposal of nuclear waste. We also monitor for environmental impacts from nuclear activities, and our nation’s nuclear security and international commitments.

Where we work

The CNSC’s headquarters are in Ottawa and we have offices at each of Canada’s four power reactor sites, a site office at Chalk River Laboratories and four regional offices across the country.

Map of Canada
Cycle

How we work

The CNSC is Canada’s nuclear regulator. It is comprised of a Commission tribunal that is completely independent and is supported by a highly skilled, professional staff who are dedicated and committed to protecting the health, safety, and security of Canadians and the environment with respect to all types of permitted nuclear activity.

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Annual Report 2014–15 Highlights
Key Achievements
Worker at Cameco’s uranium conversion facility in Port Hope, Ontario
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Annual Report 2014–15 Highlights
Spotlight Stories
Dry storage containers for used nuclear fuel are managed at each of Canada’s nuclear power generating sites

Transparency: A necessary requirement for modern regulators

With a mandate to disseminate objective scientific, technical and regulatory information to the public, the CNSC goes to great lengths to ensure that it is being open and transparent in all of its dealings.

This approach is important for increasing public understanding and trust in the CNSC’s role of protecting Canadians, their health and the environment. The CNSC also believes that establishing an atmosphere of openness with the public should be a key priority for all national nuclear regulators, and that transparency and proactive communications are a shared responsibility among regulators, facility operators and international organizations involved in nuclear safety and security.

Since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, the CNSC has enhanced its communications with the public, required all major facility operators to formalize their public information and disclosure programs, and advocated for greater transparency internationally. It takes every opportunity to encourage other nuclear regulators and international organizations involved in nuclear safety to share information with the public.

For instance, before the most recent review meeting of the Convention on Nuclear Safety1, the CNSC shared Canada’s national report, as well as the questions and answers arising from the peer-review process. Canada was the only country to do so and invited other countries to share similar information. The CNSC also asked the Convention’s President to name regulators of countries that do not comply with their obligations under the Convention. In addition, it urged regulators to publish the International Atomic Energy Agency’s peer-review mission reports as well as the actions taken to respond to recommendations and suggestions.

Since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, the CNSC has enhanced its communications with the public, required all major facility operators to formalize their public information and disclosure programs, and advocated for greater transparency internationally.

Consulting broadly on proposed new regulatory requirements

When proposing new or revising existing regulatory requirements, the CNSC actively seeks input from licensees, the public, non-governmental organizations, all levels of government, and international stakeholders. A variety of vehicles – including website announcements, Facebook postings and email distribution lists – are used to solicit this feedback. The CNSC considers all input when finalizing its regulatory requirements.

When opinions differ, the CNSC may also provide opportunities for additional consultation to explore remaining issues and ensure that all points of view are understood and given serious consideration. In all cases, the CNSC carries out its mandate using requirements based on the best science available.

Ensuring independent, transparent decisions

The Commission – the CNSC’s decision-making body for major nuclear facilities – promotes openness and transparency by conducting public hearings and meetings. When possible, these proceedings are held where nuclear facilities are located. This ensures that the public most directly implicated by the matter at hand will have a voice in the decision-making process.

Aboriginal people, as well as other members of the public, participate in public hearings via written submissions and oral presentations. The CNSC’s Participant Funding Program, established in 2011, enhances public participation in the environmental assessment and licensing process and helps participants give valuable information to the Commission. The public proceedings are carried live online at nuclearsafety.gc.ca, and transcripts are made available online shortly afterwards.

Actively engaging and consulting with the public

Travelling throughout the country, CNSC staff regularly visit Canadians in their communities to answer their questions on nuclear regulation. Between April 2014 and March 2015, the CNSC participated in over 160 outreach activities.

The CNSC encourages its experts to share their knowledge, and many of their technical articles have been peer-reviewed and published in various scientific journals. Scientific and technical paper abstracts, as well as journal articles, are also published on the CNSC website.

Regulatory requirements for public information programs

While the CNSC continually strives to be a leader in public communication on nuclear safety, it is also the industry’s responsibility to build trust. Licensees must provide information on their safety records and nuclear activities to their stakeholders and people living near their facilities.

This industry’s responsibility to communicate was formalized in 2013, when the CNSC implemented new regulatory requirements outlined in RD/GD-99.3, Public Information and Disclosure. These requirements put the onus on licensees to define their targeted audiences and to proactively inform them and stakeholders of the facilities’ regular activities as well as any accidents.

Under RD/GD-99.3, these requirements are now implemented through robust public information programs at regulated facilities. These programs are supported by disclosure protocols, which must describe the type of information or reports to be made public, as well as the criteria for determining when and where such information and reports are to be published.

The CNSC expects licensee-managed public information programs to work towards building public awareness and understanding of their nuclear activities. Developing and maintaining open communication channels, and sharing information regularly, will go a long way in assisting the facility and the public under regular operating circumstances or during an emergency. Currently, 21 licensees of major facilities are required to maintain a public information program.

In these and many other ways, the CNSC contributes to a transparent regulatory environment in Canada and is a world leader in transparency.

1 The Convention on Nuclear Safety is a 1994 International Atomic Energy Agency treaty that governs safety rules at nuclear power plants in state parties to the Convention.

The Convention creates obligations on state parties to implement certain safety rules and standards at all civil facilities related to nuclear energy. These include issues of site selection, design and construction, operation and safety verification, and emergency preparedness.

National Nuclear Emergency Exercise Helps Ensure Canada Is Well Prepared

The events in Fukushima, Japan in 2011 changed the nuclear industry forever. Countries around the world – including Canada – are reassessing their nuclear emergency preparedness and their ability to respond to severe accidents. As part of the process to validate recent improvements and to confirm Canada’s ability to respond to a nuclear emergency, Exercise Unified Response took place in May 2014 and was one of the largest nuclear exercises ever held in North America. It was also the first full-scale national nuclear exercise since major revisions were made to the Federal Nuclear Emergency Plan.

Held over three days, Exercise Unified Response involved a simulated severe accident at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. There was broad participation from organizations from all levels of government as well as the operator, non-government and some international partners, such as the IAEA, the U.S. NRC and France’s Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire.

The exercise was designed to challenge all organizations with a role in responding to a nuclear emergency. It allowed emergency response organizations to test their emergency plans and demonstrate that they can respond effectively to a severe accident, in order to protect the public, infrastructure and the environment.

A robust regulatory program for cyber security at Canada’s nuclear power plants

Over the past few decades, Canadian nuclear power plants (NPPs) have relied increasingly on digital technologies within their control and monitoring systems – making these systems both more efficient and easier to maintain. At the same time, this has introduced the possibility of cyber threats that could have adverse safety or security impacts.

With this understanding, the CNSC sought in 2008 to engage NPP licensees in a comprehensive review of their cyber-security measures for their control and monitoring systems. To identify opportunities for improvement, licensees analyzed existing measures against current best international practices. They produced updated, even more comprehensive programs, encompassing digital assets and systems for safety, security and emergency preparedness. CNSC staff reviewed these programs and deemed them to meet regulatory expectations.

The CNSC sought in 2008 to engage NPP licensees in a comprehensive review of their cyber-security measures for their control and monitoring systems.

To further strengthen the CNSC’s regulatory framework around cyber security for the nuclear industry, CNSC staff participated extensively in drafting new CSA standard N290.7, Cyber security for nuclear power plants and small reactor facilities, which was published in December 2014. This document – which will form the cornerstone of the CNSC’s regulation of cyber security in Canada – clearly outlines expectations for protecting systems that are important to safety, security and emergency preparedness, as well as international safeguards against cyber threats at nuclear facilities.

The CNSC has also introduced new cyber-security compliance verification criteria to licence conditions handbooks, and has produced a first-of-its-kind inspection guide for conducting cyber-security inspections. A successful pilot inspection was conducted at an NPP at the beginning of 2015, and further cyber-security inspections are planned at other Canadian NPPs over the next few years.

Working both nationally with licensees and internationally with its counterparts, the CNSC ensures that Canadian NPPs maintain a strong cyber-security posture. NPP licensees’ programs for cyber security are designed, implemented and maintained based upon administrative, operational and technical controls. These programs are robust to counter the persistent, increasingly sophisticated nature of existing cyber threats that are targeting energy sectors around the world.

More CNSC licensees now require financial guarantees

A financial guarantee is a tangible licensee commitment to have sufficient resources to safely terminate licensed activities, in accordance with CNSC regulatory requirements. When licensees terminate their activities, they must properly account for the safe disposal of all licensed material and equipment, and must demonstrate that all locations associated with the licence are free of radioactive contamination. Failure to properly terminate licensed activities can pose a health and safety risk to people and the environment. A financial guarantee does not relieve licensees from complying with regulatory requirements for terminating licensed activities, but ensures there are funds available when licensees are unable to carry out safe termination.

Since the NSCA came into force in 2000, the Commission has required financial guarantees for major nuclear facilities across Canada, including nuclear power plants, uranium mines and mills, research reactors and major waste facilities. In 2011, the Commission published discussion paper DIS-11-01, Implementation of Financial Guarantees for Licensees, which stated that – going forward – all other licensees would also have financial instruments acceptable to the Commission. At the August 2014 public Commission meeting, CNSC staff presented a technical briefing on the proposed financial guarantee program, that comprises a new financial instrument for CNSC licences issued for nuclear substances, prescribed equipment and Class II nuclear facilities.

The financial guarantee is in the form of an insurance policy whose premiums are shared by all participating licensees and the CNSC is the sole beneficiary.

Potentially affected licensees and other interested persons were given an opportunity to be heard in writing on the proposed licence amendments to implement the new financial guarantee requirement. The financial guarantee is in the form of an insurance policy whose premiums are shared by all participating licensees and the CNSC is the sole beneficiary. The average annual financial contribution from licensees is $58 per licence (0.44 percent of total calculated liability for safe termination of licensed activities) in order to comply with the new financial guarantee requirements. Licensees can propose an alternative financial instrument, which the CNSC will evaluate. Such a financial instrument is expected to meet the criteria of adequacy and certainty of value, continuity and liquidity, as outlined in section 5.1 of CNSC regulatory guide G-206, Financial Guarantees for the Decommissioning of Licensed Activities.

In January 2015, after an in-writing hearing, a panel of the Commission made a decision that amended licences for nuclear substances, prescribed equipment and Class II nuclear facilities to include requirements for financial guarantees. This was in accordance with the new financial instrument developed by the CNSC.

Licensed public institutions such as hospitals, universities and government departments do not have to set aside any specific funds or financial instrument, as these public institutions are supported by federal, provincial or municipal governments, which are expected to assume the cost for safe termination of their licensed activities. They only need to acknowledge their financial liability through a signed declaration submitted to the CNSC.

Independent Environmental Monitoring Program

The CNSC created its Independent Environmental Monitoring Program (IEMP) to add a layer of verification that the public and the environment around licensed nuclear facilities are safe. This program is separate from, but complementary to, the CNSC’s ongoing compliance verification activities, such as reviews of compliance reports and regular inspections. The IEMP is in line with similar programs of other national and international regulatory bodies.

CNSC staff collect samples of air, water, soil, sediment, vegetation such as grass and weeds, and some food, like meat and produce, in publicly accessible locations — for example, parks, residential communities and beaches. The samples are prepared and analyzed at the CNSC’s state-of-the-art laboratory in Ottawa, where they are tested for levels of radiological (nuclear) and non-radiological (hazardous) substances. Results are published on an interactive, user-friendly dashboard on the CNSC’s website. In 2014, approximately 200 IEMP samples were collected around 12 nuclear facilities.

Since the February 2015 launch, the IEMP dashboard has received very positive feedback from members of the public and licensees. One comment stated: “The CNSC is to be commended for taking a step in the right direction by doing its own sampling and not just relying on the licence holder’s monitoring and proprietary third-party monitoring”.

The IEMP is being implemented for facilities in all segments of the nuclear fuel cycle. For 2015, the CNSC plans to collect IEMP samples at 11 locations, including power plants, a processing facility, a research facility and uranium mines and mills.