Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) Annual Report 2021–22
The CNSC 2021–22 Annual Report (PDF, 40 pages, 0.83 Mb)
Table of contents
- Message from the President
- Results at a glance
- Results: what we achieved
- Spending and human resources
- Corporate information
- Supporting information on the program inventory
- Supplementary information tables
- Federal tax expenditures
- Organizational contact information
- Appendix: Definitions
Message from the President
I am pleased to present the 2021–22 Annual Report of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), outlining how we protected the health, safety, security of persons and the environment, and met our international obligations. I am grateful for the opportunity to convey information to parliamentarians and Canadians about the important work of the CNSC and its successes and challenges over the past fiscal year.
2021 marked 75 years of nuclear safety and security regulation in Canada, making the CNSC one of the most mature nuclear regulators in the world. Our diamond anniversary gave us an opportunity to celebrate our rich history of keeping Canadians and the environment safe. We have overcome many challenges over the last 75 years, and this past year was no exception. Among the challenges we faced – and overcame – this year were adapting to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, meeting the needs of Canada’s energy sector as it responds to the climate change crisis, and responding to the appalling situation in Ukraine and its unique implications for nuclear energy.
Throughout the war in Ukraine, CNSC staff have been at the forefront of engaging with Government of Canada officials and our international colleagues to share information and analyses to respond to potential threats. In March, we acted immediately following the shelling of an administrative building at one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, quickly sharing information about risks with our international colleagues, other federal departments and, most importantly, Canadians. The conflict points to the need for a strong, effective international nuclear regulatory regime. We worked closely with the International Nuclear Regulators Association to share technical information on nuclear safety and coordinate assistance to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Director General Rafael Grossi’s efforts to enhance safety. In the coming years, enhancing the robustness and transparency of the international regime will be an important priority for us in order to ensure that risks are mitigated. The war also highlights the importance of being able to communicate science and risks to the public quickly and transparently, even if such risks are not immediate to Canadians.
March 2022 marked 2 full years of remote work for CNSC staff because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am heartened that the CNSC has been able to adapt and thrive during this time of global uncertainty. We have shown that the CNSC is not only an organization that is capable of change, but one that rises to the most challenging situations. We have been unwavering in our commitment to ensuring safety throughout this time, including our ongoing regulatory oversight of the complex refurbishments at the Bruce and Darlington nuclear generating stations. Innovation in the production of medical isotopes also continued to be a key area of focus, with the Commission granting licence amendments to Ontario Power Generation to produce molybdenum-99, which is used in diagnostic imaging, and to Bruce Power to produce lutetium-177, which is used in cancer treatments.
In July 2021, Bruce Power reported elevated levels of uptake of hydrogen and its isotopes in the pressure tubes of 2 of its units that were shut down at the time. The levels were higher than anticipated, posing a potential risk to the continued safe operation of those units. We held special public Commission hearings to understand the science and facts, established the External Advisory Committee on Pressure Tubes, and provided open, timely and transparent communications to the public to keep them informed of the situation. The CNSC directed Bruce Power to assess the fitness for service of its other reactors to ensure that continued operation of the units is allowed only once it is established that it can be done safely. The CNSC also issued formal notices to all nuclear power plant licensees in Canada, requiring timely review and reporting on the continued safe operation of pressure tubes.
In 2021–22, we continued to show leadership through our readiness to enable the innovation necessary to meet climate goals. In December 2021, Ontario Power Generation announced the technology it has selected for the first grid-scale small modular reactor (SMR) in Canada and in a G7 nation. We are ready to receive a construction licence application for the Darlington site, which is expected before the end of 2022. We have been preparing to regulate this technology for years, and we continue to build upon our relationships with other nuclear regulators to collaborate and share best practices, experiences, and knowledge that will enhance international nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation. We actively support the IAEA’s initiative on the international harmonization and standardization of SMRs to make sure that we are supporting the safe development and deployment of these technologies globally.
Nuclear waste management was another area of focus this past year. Canadians are showing increasing interest in the future of nuclear waste management. Part 1 of the Commission hearing for the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories application for a licence to construct a near surface disposal facility in Deep River, Ontario, was held in February 2022 and focused on the final environmental assessment report and licensing application. This project, if approved, would see the construction of the first engineered facility for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste in Canada.
As part of a new study on governing nuclear waste in Canada, I had the opportunity to share with the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development how the CNSC carries out its critical role in regulating radioactive waste management. The CNSC has been actively engaged in Natural Resources Canada’s modernization of the Radioactive Waste Policy Framework, which aims to shape Canada’s national policies and strategies on radioactive waste, aligning them with international standards and best practices. The Office of the Auditor General’s Performance Audit of Nuclear Waste Management – Low and Intermediate Levels, which was launched in July 2021, included reviewing the CNSC’s regulatory role. We look forward to the audit’s recommendations and to the report that will be tabled in the fall.
I want to close on a note about our employees, who continued to demonstrate resilience, professionalism and dedication in all they do. This year, we further strengthened our commitment to making the CNSC a place where everyone feels respected, safe, and able to reach their true potential. While we still have much to do, we made significant progress on diversity, equity and inclusion by implementing new aspirational 3-year employment equity hiring goals, implementing a new policy to help us all identify and prevent workplace violence, and establishing several employment equity groups. As co-chair of the International Gender Champions Impact Group on Gender Equality in Nuclear Regulatory Agencies, I am very pleased at our progress over this past year to greatly expand membership and fuel momentum across the globe for gender equity. Lastly, we completed our Reimagine the Workplace Initiative, which highlights the vision and principles that will guide the approach to our future post-pandemic hybrid work model. Everyone’s mental health and well-being are of utmost importance, so giving employees the choice of where to work is just one more way that we can provide flexibility and support to our staff.
I invite you to read the CNSC’s 2021–22 Annual Report to gain a better understanding of how we continue to navigate these challenging times. This report reinforces that we are well served by our organizational priorities, which have guided our efforts over the past year.
Results at a glance
|THE CNSC’S 4 STRATEGIC PRIORITIES
|TO HAVE A MODERN APPROACH TO NUCLEAR REGULATION
|The CNSC is committed to a modern approach to nuclear regulation using science- and evidence-based, risk informed, and technically sound regulatory practices that consider scientific uncertainties and evolving expectations.
|TO BE A TRUSTED REGULATOR
|The CNSC continuously strives to be a trusted regulator, recognized as independent, open and transparent, and as a credible source of scientific, technical and regulatory information.
|TO MAINTAIN OUR GLOBAL NUCLEAR INFLUENCE
|The CNSC will continue to leverage and influence global nuclear efforts, relevant to Canadian interests and activities, to enhance international nuclear safety, security and non proliferation.
|TO BE AN AGILE ORGANIZATION
|The CNSC will take the necessary steps to ensure that it is an agile organization – one that is flexible and inclusive, with an empowered and equipped workforce able to quickly adapt to an evolving operating environment.
The commitment to the CNSC’s core responsibility of nuclear regulation, the fulfillment of the organization’s mandate, and the achievement of its departmental results for 2020–21 and beyond are delivered through the CNSC’s 5 programs. The programs include the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Program, Nuclear Reactors Program, Nuclear Substances and Prescribed Equipment Program, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Program, and Scientific, Regulatory and Public Information Program (plus Internal Services) and are guided by 4 strategic priorities.
The CNSC is committed to a modern approach to nuclear regulation using science- and evidence-based, risk-informed, and technically sound regulatory practices that consider scientific uncertainties and evolving expectations.
In 2021–22, the CNSC:
continued to make progress on key areas of responsibility in Canada’s Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Action PlanFootnote 1
- international collaboration is one such area, putting the CNSC at the forefront on the global stage in terms of advancing international harmonization, which is essential for the safe and successful broad deployment of SMRs globally
- began the technical review of Global First Power’s documentation in support of its application for a licence to prepare a site for an SMR at the Chalk River Laboratories site, making the CNSC a lead nuclear regulator for SMRs
- moved forward with preliminary licensing activities for emerging technologies, completing Phase 1 of the vendor design review of Moltex Energy’s 300 Megawatts SMR
- worked on establishing agile regulatory practices and clear regulatory requirements that are risk-informed, and on ensuring that it has the capacity, capability and readiness to regulate such technologies and their use
- remained actively engaged in the modernization of Canada’s radioactive waste policy and closely monitored policy developments to ensure that the necessary updates to its regulatory framework are made efficiently
- leveraged its newly created Innovation and Research Hub, a centralized and dedicated function to explore and provide a strategic lens for new and emerging technologies, in order to effectively regulate licensees and applicants
- undertook an assessment of the regulatory framework, led by its Disruptive, Innovative and Emerging Technologies (DIET) Working Group, which concluded that the framework is largely technology-neutral
conducted an international benchmarking initiative with funding from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Centre for Regulatory Innovation
- the initiative, led by the DIET Working Group in partnership with Kinectrics Inc., concluded that the CNSC’s regulatory framework is ready to license fusion technologies and that a few modifications should be considered to enhance clarity
Modernizing the inspection program in response to COVID-19
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the CNSC’s inspection plans. As a result, the CNSC continues to recalibrate its mix of onsite and remote inspections. In the first year of the global health crisis, the CNSC established a framework for conducting remote oversight activities and inspections, which included working with licensees to ensure remote access to site information systems. In 2021–22, the CNSC formalized its hybrid inspection approach by undertaking a self-assessment of its inspection process. This assessment will allow the CNSC to ensure that its approach is consistent, while providing opportunities for continuous improvement and flexibility. The CNSC continues to share best practices and lessons learned on the topic of remote inspections with other regulators.
With the pandemic restricting the ability to complete all inspection plans for 2020–21, the CNSC thoroughly reviewed any deferred inspections and ensured that any risk-significant inspections were included in the inspections plans for 2021–22.
The CNSC continuously strives to be a trusted regulator, recognized as independent, open and transparent, and as a credible source of scientific, technical and regulatory information.