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An Overview – Regulatory Oversight Report on the Use of Nuclear Substances in Canada: 2016

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regulates the safety performance of licensees authorized to use nuclear substances in Canada year-round. Through regular inspections, reviews, and assessments, CNSC staff determined that nuclear substances continued to be used safely in 2016. This conclusion is outlined in the Regulatory Oversight Report on the Use of Nuclear Substances in Canada: 2016.

The CNSC uses its well-established safety and control area (SCA) framework to evaluate the safety performance of licensees. This report focuses on select SCAs to effectively demonstrate licensees’ safety performance as a whole: management system, operating performance, radiation protection, and security. Each SCA is given a compliance rating level on the scale of fully satisfactory (exceeds expectations); satisfactory (meets expectations); below expectations (improvement is required); and unacceptable (immediate corrective action is required).

The following conclusions made by CNSC staff demonstrate that, overall, licensees showed satisfactory compliance verification ratings:

  • In the management system SCA, licensees ensured that adequate processes and programs were in place to achieve their safety objectives.
  • In operating performance, licensees made adequate provisions for the health, safety and security of persons, and protection of the environment.
  • In radiation protection, licensees ensured that exposure of workers and the public to ionizing radiation remained as low as reasonably achievable.
  • In security, licensees demonstrated that they have adequate provisions in place to prevent the loss, sabotage, illegal use, illegal possession or illegal removal of nuclear substances and prescribed equipment in their care and control.

Regulatory oversight

To ensure the ongoing safety of Canada’s nuclear industry, CNSC staff monitor and assess the performance of licensees to make sure that they comply with regulations and licence conditions. The CNSC’s regulatory oversight activities include inspections, review of reports submitted by licensees, assessments of events, and evaluation of licensee programs and processes.

Licensees remain responsible for the safe use of nuclear substances and prescribed equipment as well as the implementation of their radiation protection programs, all of which are reviewed by CNSC staff to ensure they remain effective and up to date with new or updated regulatory requirements. The CNSC’s responsibility is to set the requirements and verify compliance against those requirements. When a licensee does not comply with the regulations or licence conditions, CNSC staff determine the appropriate enforcement action to be taken.

2016 report

In 2016, the CNSC conducted 1,452 inspections across four nuclear sectors: medical, industrial, academic and research, and commercial. In analyzing licensee compliance in this report, CNSC staff considered industry performance as a whole, as well as the individual performance of each sector.

CNSC staff assessed 139 events reported by licensees in 2016. Using the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES), 136 were ranked as level 0 (no safety significance), two were ranked as level 1 (anomaly) and one was ranked as level 2 (incident). This level 2 event involved a nuclear energy worker who received a radiation dose to the hand that exceeded the regulatory limit for extremities. For all of the events reported, licensees implemented appropriate response measures to mitigate the impacts of the events and to limit radiation exposure to workers and the public. CNSC staff reviewed the measures and found them to be satisfactory.

Six licensees received a rating of unacceptable in at least one SCA. The CNSC took escalated enforcement action in each case by issuing an order, an administrative monetary penalty, or both. CNSC staff systematically tracked all non-compliances until licensees took the appropriate corrective measures to address them.


CNSC staff concluded that the use of nuclear substances in Canada was safe in 2016: Overall, licensees made adequate provisions for the protection of the health, safety and security of persons and the environment from the use of nuclear substances. The CNSC will continue its ongoing regulatory oversight of licensees in the medical, industrial, academic and research, and commercial sectors.

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