Emergency management and nuclear security
Who does what during a nuclear emergency?
The CNSC is the federal nuclear regulator that licenses nuclear power plants in Canada and monitors their safe operation.
The operator of the power plant and provincial and federal authorities work together to provide the public with the information it needs during a nuclear emergency.
|Responsibilities during a nuclear emergency
|Nuclear power plant operator
|Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
|Provincial authority (provincial and municipal governments, emergency responders)
All licensee organizations must be well-prepared to respond to emergencies, and to cooperate with local, provincial, federal and international authorities.
Enhanced security measures also form an integral component of licensees’ security programs which are reviewed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) on an ongoing basis.
Every day, millions of Canadians use nuclear products, though we may not always be aware of how it contributes to our lives.
Nuclear’s enormous potential has been harnessed for a variety of activities: to heat and light our homes, to perform valuable research at universities, to diagnose and treat illnesses, for use in scientific instruments and even in everyday household products like smoke detectors. Our lives are improved because nuclear facilities, processes and products are made safe through stringent regulation.
On this page:
- Nuclear safety
- The CNSC’s role in a nuclear emergency
- Federal, provincial and territorial government roles in a nuclear emergency
- How to report an incident
- Important information to assist first responders
- Nuclear security
- Nuclear security cooperation
- IPPAS Mission to Canada
The CNSC has both national and international nuclear safety and control responsibilities.
National nuclear safety responsibilities focus on regulating nuclear facilities and activities to protect the public, people who work in the nuclear sector, and the environment.
International responsibilities involve working to ensure that Canada's international nuclear non-proliferation obligations are upheld.
Being prepared in the event of an emergency is an essential part of being a responsible nuclear regulator. The CNSC has a comprehensive emergency preparedness program in place, and works with nuclear operators, municipal, provincial and federal government agencies, first responders and international organizations to always be ready.
The CNSC's role during an emergency is to monitor and evaluate the actions of any nuclear operators involved, provide technical advice and regulatory directives when required, and inform the government and the public on its assessment of the situation.
CNSC licensees' security programs are reviewed by the CNSC on an ongoing basis.
The CNSC's role in a nuclear emergency
The CNSC maintains a comprehensive Emergency Response Plan. Our role during a nuclear emergency is to:
- monitor the response of the licensee
- evaluate response actions
- provide technical advice and regulatory approval when required
- provide field response to assist local authorities as needed
- inform the government and the public on its assessment of the situation
To continually evaluate and improve its emergency response capabilities, the CNSC participates in simulated incidents in coordination with its licensees and government agencies. The CNSC's Emergency Response Plan is revised regularly to incorporate new elements as a result of lessons learned from exercises and drills.
The CNSC also maintains a duty officer program to receive reports on actual or potential incidents, and to respond to those seeking emergency information and assistance. The duty officer is available on a 24-hour basis, and is the first point of contact in the event of an emergency.
For more information see:
- Emergency management at major nuclear facilities
- Managing radioactive releases from nuclear power plants
- Public alerting systems in case of nuclear emergency
Federal, provincial and territorial government Roles in a nuclear emergency
Health Canada is the lead federal government department for all matters related to the Federal Nuclear Emergency Plan (FNEP). The FNEP describes how overall coordination is to occur in the event of a nuclear emergency in Canada. In an emergency, the FNEP, with support from the Public Safety Canada, the CNSC and other agencies coordinates the federal emergency response with provincial and municipal government agencies.
The provinces and territories have their own emergency plans which address their specific needs. Federal, provincial and municipal coordination is a key element of all emergency plans in Canada.
Provincial and territorial emergency management organizations, also known as emergency measures organizations (EMOs), are a good source of information about how to prepare for emergencies in your region.
Provincial and territorial emergency management organizations (EMOs) are a good source of information about how to prepare for emergencies in your region.
EMO's activities include planning and research, training, response operations and the administration and delivery of disaster financial assistance programs. EMOs are most familiar with the natural hazards and other risks of your region.
Learn more from the EMO in your province or territory:
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland & Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
Please note: Links to websites not under the control of the CNSC are provided solely for the convenience of users. The CNSC is not responsible for the accuracy, currency or the reliability of the content of those sites. The CNSC offers no guarantee in that regard and is not responsible for the information found through these links, nor does it endorse the sites or their content.
Users should be aware that information offered by non-Government of Canada sites, to which the Official Languages Act and certain other requirements may not apply, may be available only in the language(s) used by the sites in question.
How to report an incident
Phone 613-995-0479, the CNSC duty officer emergency telephone line, in the event of an emergency involving a nuclear facility or radioactive materials, including:
- any accident involving a nuclear reactor, nuclear fuel facility, or radioactive materials
- lost or damaged radioactive materials
- any threat, theft, smuggling, vandalism or terrorist activity involving a nuclear facility or radioactive materials
The CNSC Duty Officer emergency telephone line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For any non-emergency safety concerns you might have involving a nuclear reactor, nuclear fuel facility or radioactive materials, contact the CNSC.
Important Information to Assist First Responders
The purpose of these cards is to provide quick reference to first responders in a nuclear or radiological emergency. These cards do not replace the need for proper training and should only be used as a quick reference by people who have received radiation training.
- The Basics of Ionizing Radiation (PDF)
- Working in a Radiation Environment (PDF)
- Incident Control and Decontamination (PDF)
- Radiation Incident – Mass Casualty Decontamination (PDF)
- Radiation Incident – Mass Casualty Radiation Injury Triage (PDF)
- Performing Forensic Identification Tasks in a Radiation Environment (PDF)
- Stay times table – Radiological response – Bilingual (PDF)
- HazMat Team Emergency Response Manual for Class 7 Transport Emergencies-INFO-0764r2 (PDF)
Nuclear security is a major consideration in all activities of the CNSC.
The CNSC is responsible for enforcing Canada's Nuclear Security Regulations, as enabled by the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.
The CNSC has worked closely with nuclear facility operators, law enforcement and intelligence agencies, international organizations and other governmental departments to ensure that nuclear materials and facilities are adequately protected.
Nuclear security in Canada is aided by federal regulations, which set out detailed security requirements for licensed nuclear facilities.
Following the events of September 11, 2001, the CNSC took steps to enhance security at major nuclear facilities in Canada. In 2006, the Nuclear Security Regulations were amended to reflect these measures.
The CNSC approach follows international physical protection best practices and standards recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Among the principal security requirements for major nuclear facilities in the amended Nuclear Security Regulations are:
- annual threat and risk assessments
- on-site armed response force at major nuclear facilities available 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- enhanced security screening of employees and contractors involving background, police and security checks
- enhanced access control to nuclear facilities
- design basis threat analysis for nuclear facilities
- uninterrupted power supplies in place for alarm monitoring and other security systems
- contingency planning, drills and exercises
The CNSC staff assess whether licensees meet the requirements of the Nuclear Security Regulations and the conditions of their specific licences through ongoing compliance verification activities. In addition, Canadian reactors are designed to shut down safely in the event of accidents or physical attacks.
CNSC monitors potential threats in collaboration with:
- the Canadian Security Intelligence Service
- the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada
- nuclear licensees
- international agencies
- other regulators, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of the United States
Nuclear security cooperation
The CNSC participates in various international committees and groups of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), as well as international meetings to ensure the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear materials and technology.
Membership and participation in the activities of these organizations ensure that the CNSC guidance, policies and technical standards are current. As part of its work with these organizations, the CNSC also represents Canada in a wide variety of relevant multilateral discussions, symposia and conferences that address issues such as the physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities, nuclear safety and nuclear regulation.
The CNSC’s membership and participation in international activities also ensure that the CNSC’s regulatory activities are consistent, as appropriate, with internationally agreed upon best practices and principles.
In 2005, the CNSC initiated an Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission of the CNSC’s regulatory regime and processes by an international team of experts selected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Three reports were subsequently prepared: the IRRS 2009 Peer Review Report and CNSC Management Response, the 2011 IRRS Follow-up Mission Report to the Government of Canada and the CNSC Management Response to the 2011 IRRS Follow-up Mission Report. All actions items resulting from the IRRS peer reviews are now closed.
In September 2016, CNSC Executive Vice-President Ramzi Jammal led a 10-day IRRS mission to China with a team of 14 international members. The team concluded that China’s regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety is effective but will require further development due to rapid nuclear energy growth. Experts from the IRRS team found that most of the recommendations made during an initial mission in 2010 had been implemented, but that further work is needed in areas such as managing long-term operation of nuclear power plants and waste management. Read the IAEA news release on this IRRS mission.
IPPAS mission to Canada
In October 2015, a team of ten experts from nine nations and the IAEA completed an International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) mission to review national nuclear security practices in Canada, further to a commitment made by Canada at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, Netherlands.
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. In addition, the team visited several sites, where they reviewed physical protection systems. Sites visited included the Bruce Power Nuclear Generating Station (Kincardine, ON), Ontario Power Generation’s Western Waste Management Facility (Tiverton, ON), Nordion’s nuclear substance processing facility (Ottawa, ON) and the nuclear research reactor at McMaster University (Hamilton, ON).
The IPPAS team concluded that Canada conducts strong and sustainable nuclear security activities and identified a number of good practices in the national nuclear security regime. Moreover, the team stated that Canada operates a mature, effective and well-established Nuclear Security Regime and is committed to excellence.
- Read the news release on the 2015 IPPAS mission to Canada
- Consult the IAEA IPPAS team’s closing presentation to the CNSC
- Consult the CNSC IPPAS presentation update to the Executive Committee (PDF)
- Read the news release on the IAEA IPPAS mission report
- Read the IAEA IPPAS Mission to Canada Report (PDF)
About the IAEA IPPAS mission report
This IAEA report presents the results of the IAEA IPPAS mission to Canada conducted from October 19 to 30, 2015. The visit was the 68th IPPAS mission conducted by the IAEA since the program began in 1995, and the first to Canada. Although the 43rd country to host a mission, Canada is not new to IPPAS: over the past years, 12 experts from Canada have participated in the conduct of 31 IPPAS missions in other Member States. In preparation for the mission to Canada, a national workshop on IPPAS was conducted from May 4 to 6, 2015.
The report states that Canada was one of the first countries to request a mission that would include all five IPPAS modules.
- Module 1: National review of nuclear security regime for nuclear material and nuclear facilities
- Module 2: Nuclear facility review
- Module 3: Transport review
- Module 4: Security of radioactive material, associated facilities and associated activities
- Module 5: Information and computer security review
Issues related to the interface between nuclear security and nuclear material accountancy and control, as well as issues related to safety were addressed during the mission.
The IPPAS team members recognized in the report that a significant amount of time and effort was invested by the CNSC and other participants in the preparation and conduct of the mission. The report also mentions that Canada has established and maintains a robust and comprehensive nuclear security infrastructure, and that the CNSC assures licensees’ compliance with regulatory requirements. It was noted that Canada is adhering and contributing to all international instruments relevant to nuclear security and that Canada’s nuclear security legislation is continually being updated and enhanced.
The IPPAS team also noted that the CNSC encourages the adoption of good nuclear security practices which exceed current regulatory requirements. This is most obvious in the fields of transport security, computer security, emergency preparedness and security response. The report states that nuclear security in Canada benefits from a mature, well-balanced and comprehensive national intelligence framework supported by national and international security and intelligence partnerships. The IPPAS team was assured that both the CNSC and nuclear licensees continue to identify opportunities to enhance current security practices.
A total of 3 recommendations and 30 suggestions were provided in the report. In addition, a total of 21 good practices were identified during the mission. The IPPAS team assessed that Canada has a mature and well-established nuclear security regime which has been enhanced significantly in recent years.
While the CNSC is committed to transparency, portions of the report have been redacted to protect sensitive information. The CNSC acknowledges the co-operation of the participating licensees in making possible the posting of the report.
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- Protecting your family during a nuclear emergency
- Public alerting systems in case of nuclear emergency
- Potassium Iodide (KI) pills and their use during a nuclear emergency
- Hypothetical severe nuclear accident study
- INES classification and what it means
- Fact Sheet: Managing public doses during a nuclear emergency
- Fact Sheet: Reference levels for nuclear emergency response and post-accident recovery
- Working internationally to improve nuclear safety and security
- Guidance on planning for recovery following a nuclear or radiological emergency
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