It is my honour and pleasure to present the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) Annual Report for 2015–16. This year we are celebrating 70 years of nuclear safety in Canada. 2016 marks the 70th anniversary of the creation of the CNSC’s predecessor – the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB). Much work and many events have taken place over the course of the past 70 years, but the underlying raison d’être of this organization – both as the AECB and the CNSC – has always been to ensure the safe use of nuclear energy and materials, and the protection of the health and safety of Canadians and of the environment.

Our commitment to this work continued this past year with Commission hearings for the renewal of the power reactor operating licences for the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station and the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, both located in Ontario. The Commission also held public hearings for the renewal of nuclear substance processing facility operating licences for Nordion (Canada) and SRB Technologies (Canada) Inc., also located in Ontario.

This past year, the International Atomic Energy Agency completed an International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) mission to review national nuclear security practices in Canada. The mission reviewed Canada’s nuclear security-related legislative and regulatory regime for nuclear material and nuclear facilities, as well as the security arrangements applied to the transport of nuclear material, the security of radioactive material and associated facilities and activities, and the information and computer security systems in place. I am pleased to report that the IPPAS report concluded that Canada conducts mature, effective, strong and sustainable nuclear safety activities and operates a well-established nuclear security regime.

2016 marked the fifth anniversary since the Fukushima nuclear accident. I am pleased to confirm the completion of the CNSC’s action plan on the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. All short-, medium- and long-term action items for all Canadian nuclear power plants licensees were completed, and continuous monitoring by CNSC staff of station-specific action items are now part of the established verification program.

I invite you to read this annual report and discover facts about the CNSC’s long history of safe nuclear regulation. It showcases the extensive everyday work of the Commission and staff in overseeing close to 1,700 licensees in our mission to ensure the health and safety of Canadians and the protection of our environment.

Michael Binder

CNSC at a galnce

who we are

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

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.

Nuclear Fuel Cycle

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. 


How we work

The CNSC is Canada’s nuclear regulator. It is composed of a Commission 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 authorized nuclear activity.

How we work diagram
CNSC Video - How the CNSC Regulates
CNSC Video - The CNSC's Hearing Process
key achievements 2015–16

Major licensing activities

  • public hearings held in 2015–16 for the renewal of the power reactor operating licence for the Bruce A and B Nuclear Generating Stations and the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station
  • public hearings held in 2015–16 for the renewal of the Class 1B nuclear substance processing facility operating licence for Nordion (Canada) Inc.’s facility and for SRB Technologies (Canada) Inc.’s gaseous tritium light source facility
  • public hearing held in 2015 to remove the Gunnar Remediation Project Phase 2 hold point as it pertained to the remediation of the tailings deposits at the Gunnar Legacy Uranium Mine Site in northern Saskatchewan
  • joint review panel report on Ontario Power Generation’s Deep Geologic Repository submitted to the Minister of Environment for decision
  • export licence provided for Canada’s first uranium shipment to India

International Physical Protection Advisory Service mission: A review of nuclear security practices in Canada

In October 2015, a team of 10 experts from 9 nations and the IAEA completed an International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) mission to review national nuclear security practices in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., renewed Canada’s commitment to take a leadership role in the fight against nuclear terrorism.

Read the full IPPAS report


9 public proceedings

504 intervenors

9 abridged hearings

Fukushima action items completed

Action items completed

  • closure of all Fukushima action items for all Canadian nuclear power plant (NPP) licensees

10 post-Fukushima safety improvements in Canada

  • reassessment of hazards
  • portable emergency equipment
  • enhanced control of hydrogen
  • emergency filtered venting
  • pre-distribution of potassium iodide pills
  • real-time radiation monitoring
  • increased number of large-scale emergency exercises
  • stronger regulations
  • greater communications and public disclosure
  • broader international involvement

Read more details about these post-Fukushima safety improvements

Research and Support Program

  • $3.3 million invested in 76 research projects
  • 35 contributions to international or national joint projects, and 14 grants

Reports on these projects are available on the CNSC's website

Core licensing, compliance and verification activities

  • conducted 1,450 inspections for nearly 2,400 licences held by almost 1,700 licensees
  • issued 805 export and 162 import licences for nuclear substances, prescribed equipment and information
  • issued 92 licensing decisions for new transport licences, revised transport licences and transport certificates for package design and for special-form radioactive material
  • issued 573 licensing decisions related to new certificates and revised certificates for radiation devices and other prescribed equipment
  • managed 3,071 CNSC certificates held by persons across Canada who are key operating personnel for power and research reactors; health physicists and radiation safety officers; and industrial radiography exposure device operators
  • issued 23 orders to specific licensees using nuclear substances and 5 administrative monetary penalties

Workforce renewal

  • continued efforts on the CNSC’s 10-year renewal plan, including workforce plans for the next three years
  • identified the critical competencies needed to carry out regulatory work
  • focused on addressing high attrition risks in the CNSC’s workforce
  • reprofiled the organization and ensured growth and development opportunities for current employees
  • new talent recruiting and a pool of new graduates will be maintained to build capabilities and meet the CNSC’s needs of the future

Role in international nuclear safety

Ramzi Jammal, the CNSC’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Regulatory Operations Officer, was elected as the President of the Seventh Review Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety, which will be held in Vienna in spring 2017. As President, Mr. Jammal will lead discussions among participating countries on how to improve nuclear safety worldwide through a constructive exchange of views.

70 years of nuclear safety in canada

2016 marks the 70th anniversary of the CNSC and its predecessor, the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB). For seven decades, the organization has overseen Canada’s nuclear industry in areas such as uranium mining, nuclear power plants, nuclear substance processing, research, waste management, and production and use of medical isotopes.

In January 1946, the General Assembly of the United Nations, by unanimous decision, created the Atomic Energy Commission, whose task was to prepare proposals for promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to develop safeguards against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. However, discouragement followed as the U.S. and USSR were unable to reach accord on measures of control.

Photo: Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, President of the United States of America Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Winston Churchill agreed to cooperation on nuclear research during the Quebec Conference in August 1943.

The CNSC's Beginnings

In addition to the efforts for international control of atomic energy, individual countries like the U.S., Canada and Great Britain developed legislation for national control within their own borders. In Canada, the Atomic Energy Control Act was proclaimed in October 1946. Under the Act, the Government of Canada established the AECB as a regulatory agency to provide for "control and supervision of the development, application and use of atomic energy and to enable Canada to participate effectively in measures of international control of atomic energy."

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was established by the United Nations in 1957. The agency’s genesis was U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s historic address, “Atomic Power for Peace”, given to the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1953, when he proposed an Atoms for Peace program and the establishment of an international agency to promote peaceful applications of nuclear energy. The positive response led to the first truly international meeting on the subject of atomic energy – the well-known Geneva Conference of August 1955.

Photo: Model of the Nuclear Power Demonstration reactor.

canada’s nuclear regulator defines safety for research and energy reactors

In 1959, the first university-based research reactor in the Commonwealth began operating at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. At the time, the AECB oversaw the development and use of university-based facilities and the use of radioactive materials in research facilities.

In 1962, the Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) reactor near Rolphton, Ontario delivered Canada’s first nuclear-generated electricity. NPD, a CANDU (Canada Deuterium Uranium) reactor prototype, demonstrated that nuclear power plants were a viable option for producing energy in Canada.

Building on the success of the Nuclear Power Demonstration in 1962, the AECB began licensing Canada’s first commercial nuclear reactors. In 1966, the Douglas Point Nuclear Generating Station located in Douglas Point, Ontario began operating. It was Canada’s first commercial-scale CANDU nuclear generating station (200 megawatts electric), and a prototype for today’s larger nuclear power plants. In 1972, Unit 3 of the Pickering A Nuclear Generating Station began operation, producing power for Toronto and the surrounding area. At the time, it produced more electricity than any other nuclear power station in the world.

Photo: Construction of Pickering Nuclear Power Station, Ontario.

canada continues to play a major role in nuclear medicine

In 1975, Canada’s first positron emission tomography (PET) scanner was developed and installed at the Montreal Neurological Institute. PET is a nuclear medicine imaging technique that produces a three-dimensional image of functional processes in the body.

Also in 1975, AECL starts to produce molybdenum-99, which is used mainly for imaging in nuclear medicine. This Canadian expertise led to world leadership in isotope production for use in nuclear medicine.

The AECB directed a large-scale radiation reduction program in the town of Port Hope, Ontario, and more than 100,000 tons of contaminated soil was transferred to a site at Atomic Energy Canada Ltd.’s Chalk River Laboratories. In addition, the Federal–Provincial Task Force on Radioactivity was set up to coordinate cleanup of radioactive contamination in communities throughout Canada. Major remedial work was started in the Ontario municipalities of Port Hope, Elliot Lake and Bancroft, as well as Uranium City, Saskatchewan.

Photo: Town of Port Hope, Ontario.

aecb increases communication with canadians

The AECB expanded its commitment to greater transparency of its role as Canada’s regulator for the nuclear industry, increasing its interactions with Canadians. A public access policy was put in place, allowing the public to read information about licensing applications. Under the new policy, the AECB also committed to work with media when it ordered corrective measures for nuclear facilities, or when significant public or environmental hazards existed. Building further on its commitment toward greater transparency, the AECB launched a public consultation program. All proposals for new or revised regulations, safety criteria, and regulatory policies and guides by the CNSC are now published for comment.

In 1990, further to the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the IAEA and the Nuclear Energy Agency (of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) led the development of the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES). The INES was designed as a communications tool used to inform a broad public audience of the relative severity of nuclear and radiological events and their safety significance.

Photo: Dr. Agnes Bishop

canada signs the convention on nuclear safety

In 1994, Dr. Agnes Bishop, President of the AECB, signed the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS) on behalf of the Government of Canada. The Convention commits signatory countries to maintaining a high level of safety at nuclear power plants. Canada was the first country to sign the Convention and has long been one of the staunchest promoters and supporters of the Convention’s objectives.

With 50 years since the establishment of the Atomic Energy Control Board, the face of the nuclear industry had changed significantly and Canada’s nuclear regulator had to evolve with it to remain effective and relevant. Originally created to focus on matters of national security in atomic substances and technology, the AECB eventually saw its role develop to deal with concerns related to health and safety and the need for a more transparent regulatory regime. The Nuclear Safety and Control Act also granted the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission enhanced regulatory power to protect the environment.

Photo: CNSC Headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario.

nuclear reactor facilities enhance security in the wake of 9-11

In 2001, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission issued an emergency order to all Canadian nuclear reactor facilities to increase their security. The CNSC also immediately instructed major nuclear facilities to initiate enhanced security measures at their sites, which includes perimeter security and armed guards. The Nuclear Security Regulations were subsequently enacted in 2003.

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Japan and led to an accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The CNSC drew on its staff’s scientific, technical and communications expertise to report daily to Canadians on the situation, as well as on different aspects of radiation and the safety of Canada’s nuclear power plants (NPPs). Shortly after the accident, the CNSC launched a review of all major nuclear facilities in Canada. Operators were asked to focus on external hazards (such as earthquakes, floods, fires and extreme weather events), measures to prevent and mitigate severe accidents, and emergency preparedness. The review, led by a CNSC task force, confirmed that nuclear facilities in Canada are able to withstand and respond to credible external events.

Photo: CNSC Commission holds public hearings on major licensing decisions.

Canada’s nuclear regulator prepares for tomorrow’s challenges

The last decade of the CNSC/AECB’s 70-year history has been one of responding to new and emerging challenges. These have included protection against acts of terrorism involving nuclear materials; the diversion, by some countries, of nuclear materials from their intended non-proliferation use; and the need to address the safe handling and long-term storage of nuclear waste; the implementation of the National Sealed Source Registry and online Sealed Source Tracking System; the implementation of an enhanced import and export control program for high-risk radioactive sealed sources, and; two long-term radioactive waste management initiatives: Ontario Power Generation’s DGR to house low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s Adaptive Phased Management project for a deep geological repository to store Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

70-Year Timeline

70 years timeline
  • 1946: General Andrew G.L. McNaughton is appointed the first President of the Atomic Energy Control Board. 

  • 1947: The National Research Experimental reactor starts operating at the Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario.  

  • 1952: The core of the National Research Experimental reactor at Chalk River Laboratories undergoes a partial meltdown.  

  • 1957: The United Nations establishes the International Atomic Energy Agency.  

  • 1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis brings the world to the brink of nuclear war. 

  • 1965: The Government of Canada decides all exports of nuclear materials would be for peaceful purposes only.

  • 1968: Canada joins 58 nations in signing the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

  • 1972: Canada is among the first countries to sign a comprehensive nuclear safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

  • 1974: India detonates a nuclear device, leading the Government of Canada to revise its nuclear export policy.

  • 1978: A USSR nuclear-powered satellite re-enters the atmosphere and spreads radioactive debris across the Northwest Territories.

  • 1979: Equipment failure and human error contribute to an accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor.

  • 1986: Explosions at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine are considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history.

  • 1994: Canadian nuclear physicist Bertram N. Brockhouse shares the Nobel Prize in Physics for the development of neutron spectroscopy.

  • 1996: The Nuclear Safety and Control Act is introduced in Parliament, eventually replacing the Atomic Energy Control Act.

  • 2000: The Atomic Energy Control Board, Canada’s nuclear regulator for more than 50 years, is replaced by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

  • 2002: The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is established to investigate approaches for long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

  • 2008: Ontario Power Generation proposes a long-term nuclear waste facility for low- and intermediate-level waste that would be located at the Bruce nuclear site.

  • 2010: AECL’s ZED-2 research reactor is named a historical landmark by the American Nuclear Society.

  • 2011: A massive earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan lead to severe damage of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.


The following are a sampling of the many information resources included in the full annual report.