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Opening remarks by President Velshi at the WINS Workshop on the Security of Small Modular Reactors

November 20, 2019
Ottawa, Ontario

– Check against delivery –

Thank you Kathleen, for your kind introduction. Distinguished speakers, honoured guests and participants, I am delighted to be here with you.

I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we are gathered is the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishinabek Peoples.

At the outset, I would like to thank the World Institute of Nuclear Security for its role in leading the organization and facilitation of this workshop.

I commend Natural Resources Canada, the CANDU Owners Group, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and CNSC staff for their work in preparing and organizing this important event.

I would like to welcome our international participants, including our colleagues from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation, the Argentinian Regulatory Authority and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and representatives from the nuclear industry.

Welcome also to the participants who are joining us for this event via WebEx.

As Canada’s nuclear regulator, the CNSC is very proud to support and co-sponsor this Workshop on the Security of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and to bring together such a diverse mix of experts to discuss the challenges, risks and opportunities related to these emerging technologies.

It is a critical juncture and this workshop can play an important role in shaping the future.

Accordingly, I would like to challenge you on four fronts and encourage you to deliberate on these over the next few days of this workshop:

  1. Set the path forward toward the effective integration of safety, security and safeguards requirements for SMRs;
  2. Drive the evolution of prescriptive security requirements to goal-oriented, graded-approach commensurate with the risks of SMRs;
  3. Imagine the next best steps in international harmonization; and
  4. Develop concrete recommendations toward modern security requirements.

To begin, let me state the obvious. SMRs are an innovation being considered as an important part of the fight against climate change while also providing reliable, safe and secure electricity to many around the world, especially to those who regularly go without.

The Canadian nuclear industry and multiple levels of government across our country see many potential applications in Canada for SMRs and have collaboratively developed a detailed roadmap for the deployment of SMRs.

As Canada’s nuclear regulator, the CNSC is committed to ensuring that our regulatory framework is flexible, well-defined and ready for SMRs, while ensuring the safety and security of Canadians, protection of the environment and  meeting national security, safeguards and non-proliferation obligations.

Before I unpack my four challenges for this workshop, I want to stress the importance of public trust. We must all redouble our commitments to strengthening public trust through increased transparency and engagement with all stakeholders.

SMRs are first-of-a-kind projects and the public will rightfully expect and demand that SMRs are safe and secure. Any misstep on the part of industry or by us, as the regulator, will likely cause public support to quickly evaporate.

I encourage all of you to communicate widely the results of this workshop and, more importantly, get out of the so-called ‘nuclear bubble’ and talk to new audiences, including youth, elected officials and the public as well as Indigenous People that may not yet be familiar with this topic.

Returning to my challenges for this workshop, first: while this is a ‘security workshop’, collectively, we must strive to ensure effective integration of safety, security and safeguards requirements.

The CNSC is one of the few regulators in the world that is mandated to fulfill all 3 Ss: safety, security and safeguards. This model has been recognized as a good practice through IAEA peer reviews and it is a model that could help better integrate these requirements in the oversight of SMRs.

We have all struggled over the years to ensure effective balance in these requirements. There is no greater opportunity than now to balance them for SMRs. Passive safe designs that are smaller and, in some cases, transportable and remotely operated, must also be secure and readily subject to international safeguards oversight. It is so much easier to address this integration early than to retrofit later.

We have a governance model here in Canada that reconciles the 3 Ss in one organization. For our international participants, who have these responsibilities spread over several organizations, I would encourage you to look at your governance models back home or, at least, collaborate strongly with other agencies that also have responsibilities for the 3 Ss.

To my second challenge: I encourage you to use this workshop to drive the evolution of prescriptive security requirements to an objective graded-approach commensurate with risks of SMRs. We have plenty of experience where prescriptive safety requirements have been found to impede innovation. A more objective and graded-approach for security requirements that is commensurate with risk, consequences and design basis threats should be the path forward.

Here in Canada, we are currently examining options towards modernizing the Nuclear Security Regulations to become more performance-based and less prescriptive such that the features of the various SMR designs, which are expected to include elements of inherent safety and security, are taken into account. This will consider all aspects of nuclear security, including physical protection and cyber security systems.

Examining options that allow for a graded-approach that leverages security-by-design and crediting these features is essential towards meeting clearly-defined and risk-informed performance objectives. The approach should always be scientific and technically-based. It may even permit flexibility in technologies and methods to meet requirements as long as the effectiveness of the nuclear security system can be demonstrated.

In the near-term, it is anticipated that SMRs will be constructed and operated as demonstration facilities on existing high-security sites. Moving forward, however, we need to think about the regulation of nuclear security of SMRs that will be deployed in remote regions and on small-scale footprints. Many of the designs and safety cases claim zero off-site impact. Goal-oriented security requirements should match the safety case with radiological consequences.

Of course, the challenge associated with nuclear security for SMRs is to reconcile regulatory objectives that can be effectively implemented across a wide-range of SMR design options.

My third challenge to this workshop: I encourage you to imagine the next best steps in international harmonization. Globally, the challenge is to strive towards harmonization of high-level nuclear security goals, while respecting and recognizing that each State will set its own objectives based on its national security interests, including economic and energy security.

The CNSC took an important step with the U.S. NRC this past August in signing a Memorandum of Cooperation to further streamline and improve the regulation of SMRs.

Just a few weeks ago, staff from both our organizations met to prioritize our work for the years ahead under this arrangement, including streamlining our processes to the extent possible. The early feedback I got from my staff is there is very strong alignment between the two agencies and commitment to leverage opportunities for minimizing duplication of effort and make regulatory reviews more efficient.

We agreed to a Terms of Reference to help guide our work, and discussed developing common guidance for review of licence applications for SMRs.

I know that close cooperation and collaboration will serve us well, as reviews of technologies by one of us can be leveraged by the other. If two mature regulators conclude they have no reservations with a design during a pre-licensing review, there should be minimal impediments during the licensing process – while respecting that final decisions lie with our respective national regulatory bodies.

International harmonization was a key topic that I discussed at the Ministerial Conference of the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation that was held at the White House last week in Washington, DC. I would like to reiterate my strong recommendation that the prospects and path forward for harmonized international security objectives should be seriously considered.

Finally, to my fourth and last challenge to you: use this WINS workshop to make concrete recommendations toward modern security requirements.

In the next two days, please exchange your viewpoints regarding SMRs and security-by-design, and learn about different perspectives and approaches for leveraging the inherent safety and security design features of SMRs to meet nuclear security regulatory requirements. The various topics that will be discussed will lead to a clearer path forward for the establishment of effective nuclear security for SMRs.

Our common objective is to ensure the continuity of robust nuclear security regimes and the secure operation of SMRs in the future.

Given the vast expertise in attendance at this workshop, it would be ideal if there were a report developed with recommendations that was widely communicated following your deliberations this week.

I wish all of you a productive time together, and I look forward to the outcomes of this workshop.

Thank you.

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