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International cooperation

Canada was the first country with substantial nuclear capability to reject nuclear weapons. Canada continues to be actively involved in the international promotion of the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is responsible for implementing Canada’s nuclear non-proliferation policy.

In addition, the CNSC participates in several international nuclear organizations in order to strengthen nuclear safety at home and abroad.

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IAEA Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources (the Code) was approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors in 2003 and endorsed by the IAEA General Conference the same year. Canada contributed to the development of the Code and was one of the first Member States to make a political commitment in 2004. As of February 2023, 146 States have made a political statement towards their implementation of the Code.

There are 2 guidance documents that supplement the Code. First, the Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources, to which Canada made a political commitment in 2005, aims to provide for an adequate transfer of responsibility when a radioactive source is being transferred from one State to another. Second, the Guidance on the Management of Disused Radioactive Sources, to which Canada made a political commitment in 2018, provides guidance on the implementation of management options for disused sources.

2023 marks the 20th anniversary of the approval of the Code. Every 3 years, the IAEA organizes the Code of Conduct meeting: a week-long event to promote the exchange of information and best practices in implementing the Code. The CNSC has been participating in the Code of Conduct meeting since its inception.

2023 highlights:

  • The CNSC, represented by Ramzi Jammal, CNSC Executive Vice-President and Chief Regulatory Operations Officer, served as co-chair of the 2023 Code of Conduct meeting along with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the United Arab Emirates’ Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation.
  • Rumina Velshi, CNSC President and CEO, co-hosted a panel discussion with the IAEA on the Role of Gender Equity and Inclusion, and the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources: 20 Years of Progress.
  • Canada’s National Paper summarized the CNSC’s regulatory oversight of radioactive sources and associated continuous improvements since 2019.

IAEA Emergency Preparedness Review follow-up mission to Canada

Four people seated at a meeting table. One is speaking into a microphone and gesturing with his left hand.

Members of the international team of experts discuss Canada’s progress at the IAEA’s Emergency Preparedness Review follow-up mission. Seated (Left to Right): Roger Shepard (NBEMO), Edward Robinson (IAEA Observer-USA), Grant Ingham (IAEA Reviewer-UK), Petre Min (IAEA Reviewer-Romania) and Jennie Esnard (CNSC staff) standing.

In 2019, the IAEA conducted an Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV) of nuclear emergency arrangements in Canada. To address the recommendations received, Canada developed a national action plan. It also requested that a team of international experts return in June 2023 to assess the progress made since the initial EPREV mission.

The EPREV follow-up mission included federal authorities, provincial authorities (Ontario and New Brunswick), and nuclear power plant operators. This follow-up mission served to close the recommendations to improve Canada’s overall nuclear safety and preparedness so as to protect Canadians' health and safety during a nuclear emergency. At the CNSC, we are committed to continuous improvement and welcome recommendations from international counterparts on enhancements to our regulatory framework. We look forward to receiving the results of this evaluation and will consider the recommendations as part of our efforts to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

The results of the follow-up mission will be shared in a statement to be issued by the IAEA at a later date.

IAEA Emergency Preparedness Review mission to Canada

IAEA Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV) mission to Canada

Nuclear power plants are required to do a full-scale emergency exercise every 3 years. That means the CNSC participates in one every year.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conducted an EPREV of nuclear emergency arrangements in Canada from June 3 to 13, 2019. The EPREV mission assessed a Member State’s level of preparedness for nuclear and radiological emergencies through a team of international experts coordinated by the IAEA.

Nuclear emergency preparedness and response is a shared responsibility in Canada. This means that the scope of the mission included federal authorities, authorities in provinces with nuclear reactors (Ontario and New Brunswick), and the nuclear power plant operators.

The review team commended Canada, across all levels of government, for its robust implementation of the IAEA Safety Standards and for its mature preparedness system. Canada was recognized for several good practices that go beyond IAEA Safety Standard expectations. These include the pre-distribution of, and clear instructions for, taking potassium iodide (KI) pills; the innovative Warden Service in New Brunswick, which uses volunteers to provide instructions and warnings to the public during emergencies; and the use of social media simulators in exercises to correct misinformation. To ensure that Canada continuously strengthens its emergency response capabilities, an action plan has been prepared to address the review team’s recommendations and suggestions over the next few years.

IAEA Integrated Regulatory Review Service mission to Canada

The 2019 IRRS mission team

The 2019 IRRS mission team

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) is one of the services offered to Member States by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The purpose of an IRRS mission is to compare a country’s regulatory practices with international standards and equivalent good practices elsewhere in the world.

IRRS mission review teams comprise senior regulators recruited by the IAEA from other Member States. The review team is accompanied by IAEA staff, who coordinate their activities and provide administrative support. IAEA staff also participate in the review activities.

The IRRS approach is based on a self-assessment designed to support continuous improvement among Member States. There are three phases to an IRRS mission:

Phase 1: The regulator under review completes a self-assessment based on IAEA safety standards, in order to identify strengths and potential improvements to its regulatory framework and regulatory practices, and to develop an action plan to address identified deficiencies.

Phase 2: The IRRS mission is conducted by a review team, who ultimately identifies recommendations, suggestions for improvement, and best practices.

Phase 3: A follow-up mission is conducted to assess progress in implementing the recommendations from the initial mission and to identify further good practices.

IRRS mission 2024

During the 2024 IRRS Mission, the CNSC published the Summary of CNSC Safety-Related Policies (PDF, 1,017 KB).

This report provides a comprehensive summary of CNSC policies that articulate our obligations and demonstrate the CNSC’s commitment to safety.

IRRS mission 2019

The CNSC requested a full-scope IRRS mission in September 2019. The IAEA published the IRRS Report to Canada, which assesses Canada’s framework for nuclear safety (read the executive summary of the Report).  Canada’s response to the 2019 IRRS Report has been developed to respond to all of the mission team’s findings.

In keeping with international best practices, a follow-up mission will be held within four years to evaluate Canada’s progress in addressing the review team’s findings and recommended improvements.

IRRS mission 2009

A previous IRRS mission was conducted at the CNSC in 2009. An IRRS report was developed and provided a record of the peer review, and the CNSC created an action plan in response to each finding of the review team. Read the IRRS 2009 peer review report and CNSC management response.

A follow-up mission was completed in 2011 to evaluate the CNSC’s progress, and review the CNSC’s response to the events at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The team also assessed Canada’s regulatory practices related to the packaging and transport of nuclear substances. Read the 2011 IRRS follow-up mission report and CNSC management response. All actions items resulting from the 2009 and 2011 IRRS peer reviews have been completed.

Learn more about IRRS missions.

International Cooperation

Nuclear non-proliferation

The CNSC is responsible for implementing Canada’s nuclear non-proliferation policy, which contains two broad, long-standing objectives:

  1. to assure Canadians and the international community that Canada’s nuclear exports do not contribute to the development of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices
  2. to promote a more effective and comprehensive international nuclear non-proliferation regime

The cornerstone of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime is the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

The NPT establishes commitments to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, promote cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and achieve nuclear disarmament.

Canada is an original signatory to the NPT and has centered on the treaty’s provisions.

International Cooperation

The CNSC, through the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA) and corresponding regulations, implements Canada’s NPT commitments:

  • not to receive, manufacture or acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices
  • to accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on all nuclear material in peaceful uses in Canada
  • to ensure that Canada’s nuclear exports to non-nuclear-weapon states are subject to IAEA safeguards

Under the NSCA and its regulations, Canadian importers and exporters are required to obtain and comply with CNSC licences controlling the international transfer of nuclear and nuclear-related items. Licensees must respect Canada’s nuclear non-proliferation commitments.

Through the licensing process, the CNSC takes steps to ensure that nuclear imports and exports are consistent with Canada’s nuclear non-proliferation policy.

The policy requires major nuclear exports to be subject to a nuclear cooperation agreement between Canada and the importing country.

These agreements establish reciprocal obligations that are designed to minimize the risk of proliferation associated with the international transfer of major nuclear items.

The CNSC participates with Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) in the negotiation of bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements and implements administrative arrangements with its foreign counterparts to effectively fulfill the terms and conditions of these agreements.

Nuclear materials verification (safeguards)

The approaches and measures utilized by the IAEA to verify that nuclear material is not diverted from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in accordance with NPT commitments are commonly referred to as “safeguards”.

In 1972, Canada was the first country to bring into force a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA pursuant to the NPT. The safeguards agreement gives the IAEA the right and obligation to monitor Canada’s nuclear-related activities and verify nuclear material inventories and flows in Canada.

In 2000, as part of worldwide efforts to strengthen IAEA safeguards, Canada brought into force the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

The Additional Protocol gives the IAEA enhanced rights of access to nuclear sites and other locations and provides it with access to information about nuclear-related activities in Canada above and beyond its rights under the original safeguards agreement.

The CNSC is responsible for implementing the Canada/IAEA safeguards agreement and the Additional Protocol. Through the NSCA, regulations and licences, the CNSC implements regulatory controls for the production, use, storage and movement of nuclear material in Canada.

Conditions for the application of IAEA safeguards are contained in nuclear facility operating licences.

Image taken with the Digital Čerenkov Viewing Device, which was developed by the Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate and the CNSC to conduct safeguards verification

Image taken with the digital Čerenkov viewing device, which was developed by the Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate and the CNSC to conduct safeguards verification

Through its regulatory process, the CNSC ensures that all relevant licensees have in place safeguards policies and procedures that include:

  • the reporting and monitoring of nuclear material and activities
  • the provision of IAEA safeguards inspector access to nuclear facilities

The CNSC performs compliance and auditing activities to ensure licensees’ safeguards policies and procedures remain sufficient to meet the safeguards requirements of the agreement and Additional Protocol.

The CNSC maintains a national system that accounts for and controls nuclear materials in Canada, and supplies reports to the IAEA that serve as a basis for IAEA inspection and monitoring activities.

The CNSC also cooperates with the IAEA in developing new safeguards approaches for Canadian facilities and contributes to efforts to strengthen safeguards internationally.

As part of this effort, the CNSC, through its Safeguards Support Program, assists the IAEA in developing advanced safeguards equipment or techniques aimed at strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of safeguards implementation.

The program also supports domestic needs in resolving specific safeguards issues related to Canadian nuclear facilities and the use of nuclear material.

International committees and groups

The CNSC participates in a number of international committees and groups as well as international meetings and research projects committed to ensuring the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear materials and technology.

Membership and participation in these international activities ensure that the CNSC’s regulatory activities are consistent, as appropriate, with internationally agreed upon best practices and principles.

Membership and participation also ensure that CNSC guidance, policies and technical standards are current. Through the CNSC’s participation in various international nuclear fora, Canada’s position on nuclear regulatory matters is heard.

In particular, the CNSC participates in various committees and activities of the IAEA and Nuclear Energy Agency. As part of its work with these organizations, the CNSC represents Canada, or participates in broader Canadian delegations in a wide variety of relevant multilateral discussions, symposia and conferences that address such issues as:

  • the physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities
  • international transport of nuclear and other radioactive material
  • nuclear safety
  • radiation protection
  • radioactive waste management
  • nuclear safeguards
  • nuclear regulation

In 2015, the CNSC gained observer status in the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association (WENRA). The CNSC made the request to become an observer, to promote the exchange of experiences with fellow regulators and learn from international best practices. As an observer, the CNSC will have the opportunity to participate in WENRA's working groups on reactor harmonization and on waste and decommissioning.

The CNSC also participates with Global Affairs Canada in two multilateral nuclear export control mechanisms: the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Zangger Committee. Canada was a founding member of both these bodies.

The CNSC contributes technical and policy expertise in meetings and working groups of these committees to:

  • ensure that the guidelines established by these bodies relating to conditions of nuclear supply effectively address proliferation threats
  • ensure that the lists of controlled items take into account advances in nuclear and nuclear-related technology

The implementation of the CNSC’s statutory responsibilities for the regulation of Canadian nuclear exports is consistent with the guidelines of these bodies.

International Nuclear Regulators’ Association

The CNSC is a member of the International Nuclear Regulators’ Association, a forum where the most senior officials from well-established national nuclear regulatory authorities can share knowledge and provide support to enhance nuclear safety, security and radiological protection.

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