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Regulatory framework overview

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission regulates the use of nuclear energy and materials to protect health, safety, security and the environment; to implement Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy; and to disseminate objective scientific, technical and regulatory information to the public. Established in 2000 under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA), the CNSC reports to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources. To safely regulate an evolving nuclear sector, the CNSC maintains an effective and flexible regulatory framework.

What makes up the CNSC's regulatory framework?

The CNSC's regulatory framework consists of laws passed by Parliament that govern the regulation of Canada's nuclear industry, and regulations, licences and documents that the CNSC uses to regulate the industry. The CNSC is committed to providing regulatory instruments that make its expectations clear. Published regulatory documents are considered to be living documents subject to regular review, so your feedback is welcome at any time.

A triangle diagram shows the elements of the regulatory framework such as the enabling legislation, requirements and guidance from top to the bottom.

What is the regulatory document framework?

The regulatory document framework refers to documents detailing the CNSC's approach to regulating the nuclear industry. The framework combines all the existing documents and document projects in a clear and logical manner according to regulated facilities and activities, safety and control areas and other areas of regulatory interest.

This framework facilitates licensee and public access to every applicable CNSC regulatory expectation. These documents are periodically reviewed, and they will be reissued according to the CNSC's updated regulatory document framework.

For more information, visit the CNSC's regulatory documents webpage.

What is the difference between an act and a regulation?

In Canada, an act is a means by which laws are made by Parliament. A regulation, often referred to as "delegated legislation" or "subordinate legislation", may be viewed as the operational part of a law, commonly dealing with matters such as what is meant by certain terms used in an act, procedures and processes that must be followed or standards that must be met in order to comply with an act.

Regulations are not made by Parliament, but rather by someone to whom Parliament has delegated the authority to make them. The Commission has the authority under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA) to make regulations, with the approval of the Governor in Council, for matters related to its mandate.

What are requirements and guidance?

Regulatory documents generally include two kinds of information: requirements and guidance. When included in the licensing basis, requirements are mandatory and must be met by any licensees wishing to obtain (or retain) a licence or certificate to use nuclear substances or to operate a nuclear facility.

Guidance provides direction to licensees and applicants on how to meet requirements. It also provides more information about approaches used by CNSC staff to evaluate specific problems or data during the review of licence applications. Licensees are expected to review and consider guidance; if these are not being followed, the licensees should explain how the alternate approach they have chosen still meets regulatory requirements.

What is a regulatory document?

Regulatory documents are a key part of the CNSC's regulatory framework for nuclear activities in Canada. They explain to licensees and applicants what they must achieve in order to meet the requirements set out in the NSCA and the regulations made under the NSCA.

Regulatory documents may contain practical guidance and suggestions to licensees and applicants on how to meet the CNSC's regulatory requirements. Such guidance may include, but is not limited to, information on possible approaches to the design of nuclear facilities, the design and implementation of required management and operational programs, and forms for applying for licences or reporting information to the Commission.

The CNSC also uses other internal forms of guidance which can include any other documents and applicable reports, CNSC publications, staff review procedures and CNSC inspection procedures. The CNSC produces plain-language publications that describe nuclear-related issues as well as regulatory requirements and processes. They are intended for the general public, governments and other stakeholders.

Does the CNSC use external documents as a part of licensing?

External forms of guidance can include information on best practices and domestic and international standards including standards published by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). CSA standards are an important part of the CNSC's regulatory framework and complement regulatory documents that are developed by CNSC staff. The public can have free view-access to all CSA Group nuclear related standards following the instructions listed on this webpage.

What is the standard process for developing regulatory documents?

The regulatory document development process has five key steps, which are summarized as follows:

Analyze the issue

A regulatory issue (which the CNSC has decided to address through the development or amendment of a regulation or regulatory document) is first analyzed to determine the appropriate scope and purpose of the project. The analysis includes a review of existing regulations, regulatory documents and standards, as well as an analysis of the appropriate regulatory actions needed to address the issue. In some cases, discussion papers are issued for public consultation during the analysis stage in order to obtain early public input.

This early, up-front analysis results in a clearer understanding of the regulatory issue (or issues) at play, along with the options available to the CNSC to address them. Options could include the development of new regulations, the revision of an existing regulatory document, or the introduction of new regulatory documents. Other regulatory approaches include amending licences and/or licence condition handbooks and increasing compliance activities.

Develop a draft of the document for public comment

Once the decision has been made to proceed with a new (or revised) regulatory document, the CNSC develops requirements and guidance for the subject in question. This information may be included as a proposed revision to an existing document, or as part of the introduction of a new regulatory document. This stage also includes a detailed internal review and approval process, as well as the final editing, formatting and translation of the draft documents.

Consult with stakeholders

The consultation process for draft documents, such as regulatory documents and discussion papers, gives stakeholders the opportunity to comment on the proposed content and structure, as well as on the clarity. The draft document is posted to the CNSC’s e-consultation platform, which allows for online submission of comments and transparency through live commenting.

Through the CNSC’s e-consultation platform, the public, Indigenous peoples, licensees and interested organizations can:

  • submit comments
  • engage with other stakeholders on their comments
  • participate in discussions within the comment streams

All comments are visible for other stakeholders to review, and all stakeholders have the opportunity to see the feedback being provided throughout the consultation process in near real time. All comments and responses are moderated.

Revise the draft document for approval and publication

The CNSC reviews all comments received during the public consultation stage and determines if any changes are necessary to the document. All the comments are collected in a consultation report which includes the CNSC's response to each comment. The draft documents are then revised as necessary, and prepared for final publication. If the proposed document includes new requirements that the CNSC intends to impose on licensees, the document is presented to the Commission during a public meeting for its review and approval.

Publish the regulatory document

All final documents are released through the CNSC's website, for use by stakeholders and licensees.

For more information about current and planned projects relating to regulatory documents and discussion papers, visit the CNSC's regulatory framework plan website.

What is a discussion paper?

Discussion papers are vehicles for communicating the CNSC's proposed approaches to regulatory issues (such as fitness for duty for nuclear workers, radiation protection and waste management). They provide opportunities for early stakeholder input to the CNSC's regulatory policies. This input is then utilized to streamline regulatory document development and publishing by addressing any licensees' or stakeholders' concerns early on, during the regulatory lifecycle.

Discussion papers are generally used in three situations: when considering amendments to regulations, or creating new regulations; when proposing regulatory oversight in a new area; or when exercising authority in a different manner than past practice.

To view current and past discussion papers, visit the CNSC's Discussion Paper webpage.

How does the CNSC consult with the public?

The CNSC welcomes public input on draft regulatory documents and discussion papers. Draft regulatory documents and discussion papers are released for public comment on the CNSC’s e-consultation platform, which can be accessed through the CNSC's consultation page and the Government of Canada's Consulting with Canadians website. Consultation periods are usually between 60 and 120 calendar days, depending on the project’s complexity and the level of potential public interest.

Individuals and organizations on the CNSC's subscription list are notified by email about the release of new regulatory documents and discussion papers for comment. The launch of a consultation is posted on social media, the CNSC home page and the Government of Canada's Consulting with Canadians website.

Through the CNSC’s e-consultation platform, all individuals and organizations have the opportunity to submit comments, engage with other reviewers on their comments, and participate in discussions within the comment streams. All comments are visible for everyone to review.

All comments received by the CNSC during public consultation are reviewed and addressed by staff. Comments can be submitted via:

  • the CNSC’s e-consultation platform
  • email
  • mail:
    Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
    280 Slater Street
    PO Box 1046 Stn B
    Ottawa ON K1P 5S9
  • fax: 613-995-5086

To view current regulatory documents and discussion papers posted for consultation, visit the CNSC's Consultation web page. In addition to soliciting comments on specific draft regulatory documents and discussion papers, the CNSC welcomes feedback on any regulatory document, at any time.

For more information

To learn about upcoming or ongoing consultations on proposed federal regulations, visit the Canada Gazette or the Government of Canada’s Open Government website under the "Find a Consultation" option.

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