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Emergency preparedness and the CNSC – Exercise Unified Control

Emergency preparedness

To ensure the safety of Canadians and the environment, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) requires all major nuclear facilities in Canada to have comprehensive emergency preparedness programs and response plans to deal with potential incidents at their sites. These plans must harmonize with those of other stakeholders, including the CNSC, provinces and municipalities, as well other federal partners.

Emergency preparedness is not only an essential part of the CNSC’s defence-in-depth, but also a regulatory requirement. Operators must perform station-level exercises and drills several times a year. Nuclear power plants are required to conduct large integrated emergency exercises every three years. The results of these exercises form part of the CNSC’s compliance program and are considered during licence renewal hearings.

The CNSC participates in Exercise Unified Control: December 6–7, 2017

On December 6 and 7, 2017, the CNSC participated in a full-scale, multi-jurisdictional nuclear exercise: Exercise Unified Control (ExUC). Organized and led by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the exercise was conducted in a lead-up to the relicensing of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station in 2018.

ExUC’s primary objective was to test the preparedness of OPG and its partners in response to a nuclear emergency at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. Beyond assessing OPG’s emergency plan for Pickering, the objectives included testing the interoperability between organizations, the consultation process during decision making, and the coordination and effective delivery of messages to the public and media. For the CNSC, this exercise tested its updated Nuclear Emergency Response Plan and recently renovated Emergency Operations Centre.

The CNSC’s role

The CNSC plays an important role in emergency preparedness exercises. As an organization, it regularly participates in and evaluates exercises, allowing it to validate the efficacy of emergency preparedness programs at major nuclear sites. In the unlikely scenario of a nuclear emergency, the CNSC:

  • monitors and evaluates the licensee’s response to determine if appropriate actions are being taken
  • assesses the accident to understand progression and possible radiation releases
  • assesses possible offsite consequences and protective actions
  • informs the Government of Canada and the public of its assessment of the situation
CNSC staff deliberate during Exercise Huron Resolve in 2016

If there is one thing to be learned from the Fukushima accident, it is to be prepared for the unexpected. Improvements are continually being tested in the operator-run exercises in which the CNSC and other stakeholders participate. These exercises also verify that the different levels of governments understand their roles and responsibilities during a nuclear emergency.

To maintain and improve its emergency response capacity, the CNSC also regularly reviews its Nuclear Emergency Response Plan to incorporate lessons learned from previous exercises and drills.

Read speaking notes from ExUC kickoff event.

To learn more about nuclear emergency preparedness and response, visit the CNSC’s Emergency management and nuclear safety Web page.

All hands on deck for CNSC staff during a 2016 emergency exercise

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