Radiation regulations

All of Canada’s nuclear activities are regulated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

Any organization in Canada must possess a CNSC licence if it is to conduct work with a nuclear facility, such as a power plant, mine, or fuel conversion facility, or work with nuclear substances, as in nuclear medicine and industrial imaging devices. CNSC licences stipulate what activities the organization can carry out, and specifies the CNSC regulations that apply to those activities, to ensure the proper use of materials and technologies.

These regulations govern the areas of: protection against radiation, the use of nuclear substances and radiation devices, packaging and transportation of nuclear materials, nuclear security, and nuclear non-proliferation. Some regulations apply to specific facilities that are either Class I (such as power reactors or fuel fabrication plants), Class II (medical linear accelerators), or uranium mines and mills. These comprehensive regulations ensure that best practices are always being maintained. A full list can be found on the CNSC website.

The CNSC’s radiation protection regulations are the primary legislation for maintaining public and occupational exposure to radiation at safe levels. All operators of licenced nuclear activities are required to ensure that the annual dose to members of the public must not exceed 1 millisievert (mSv), and that employees designated as nuclear energy workers are limited to an average of 50 mSv/year. These regulated values are far lower than the 100-mSv level, below which no evidence for radiation-induced health effects are known. In practice, the actual dose to the public from nuclear power activities is about a thousandth of this, at 0.001 mSv/year, and the average occupational dose, as tracked by Health Canada, is only 0.33 mSv, as shown in Health Canada’s 2008 Report on Occupational Exposures in Canada.

The CNSC is recognized as a world leader by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the branch of the United Nations responsible for global nuclear security. CNSC regulations draw on and influence IAEA standards of best practice, and are routinely updated to reflect the most recent scientific findings from around the world.