Nuclear Energy

In Canada, constitutionally nuclear energy falls within the jurisdiction of the federal government. Its role encompasses Research and Development (R&D), as well as the regulation of all nuclear materials and activities in Canada. The government places top priority on health, safety, security and the environment in relation to nuclear activities in Canada. It has established a comprehensive legislation framework which focuses on protecting health, safety, security and the environment. It consists of the following:

  • Nuclear Safety and Control Act (Regulation)
  • Nuclear Energy Act (Nuclear Research and Development)
  • Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (Waste)
  • Nuclear Liability Act (Liability)

While the federal government has important responsibilities relating to nuclear energy, the decision to invest in electric generation rests with the provinces. It is up to the provinces, in concert with the relevant provincial energy organizations/power utilities, to determine whether or not new nuclear power plants should be built. The Government of Canada views nuclear energy as an important component of a diversified energy mix. It has taken necessary measures to ensure the long term development of nuclear energy as a sustainable energy source in meeting our existing and future energy requirements. When properly managed, nuclear energy can contribute effectively and significantly to sustainable development objectives. The Canadian nuclear energy program is a very important component of Canada's economy and energy mix.

Natural Resources Canada promotes the sustainable development and responsible use of Canada’s natural resources. It is responsible for ensuring the energy future for Canada through developing policies and programs which enhance the economic and environmental well-being of Canadians. The Energy Sector of Natural Resources Canada is responsible for developing Canadian policy on all energy sources. The Nuclear Energy Division is the unit within the Energy Sector that develops and implements Canadian government policy on nuclear energy. It provides advice on energy policy, as well as institutional, legislative and financial frameworks for the nuclear industry in Canada. It also works closely with the Uranium and Radioactive Waste Division (URWD).

There are two organizations which report through the Minister of Natural Resources to the Parliament of Canada that play key roles in the Canadian nuclear energy program. These are:

  • The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Canada’s nuclear regulator, is an independent agency of the Government of Canada. The mission of the CNSC is to regulate the use of nuclear energy and materials to protect health, safety, security and the environment and to respect Canada's international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The Nuclear Safety and Control Act, which established the CNSC in May 2000, provides a modern regulatory framework that mirrors the latest scientific knowledge in the areas of health, safety, security and environmental protection.
  • Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) is a Crown Corporation established in 1952 to develop peaceful applications of nuclear energy. Its mandate includes two distinct roles: a public policy role and a commercial role. Its public policy role includes: conducting nuclear research and development, producing medical isotopes, and the management of legacy and historic nuclear wastes. Most of its R&D activities are conducted at the Chalk River Laboratories, which houses the National Research Universal Reactor (NRU). With respect to its commercial role, AECL designs, develops, deploys and refurbishes nuclear reactor systems based on Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor technology (CANDU).
  • AECL provides products and services to nuclear utilities worldwide. Its 4,800 employees deliver leading edge nuclear services, R&D support, design and engineering, construction management, specialized technology and waste management and decommissioning in support of CANDU reactor products.
    In addition to the policy and other responsibilities of the Minister of Natural Resources Canada, there are four other key federal departments which have some responsibility for nuclear security, health, safety and trade.
  • The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade promotes bilateral and multilateral nuclear cooperation and safety, and the implementation in Canada and abroad of key non-proliferation and disarmament agreements. It enhances security and well-being by promoting the peaceful and safe use of chemical and nuclear technologies; and ensures compliance with international commitments such as the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention. It also assists in the development of relevant international law and guidance, such as conventions established under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group regime.
  • Health Canada plays a key role in protecting Canadians from the risk of radiation exposure. It is the lead federal department responsible for the Federal Nuclear Emergency Plan, and it is one of the key departments supporting the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Health Canada’s activities are managed by the Radiation Protection Bureau. It contributes to maintaining and improving the health of Canadians by investigating and managing the risks from natural and artificial sources of radiation.
  • Transport Canada’s role with respect to the nuclear sector is to promote public safety during the transportation of dangerous goods. The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Directorate is the leading source of regulation, information and advice on dangerous goods transport for the public, industry and government employees.
  • Industry Canada plays an important role in fostering the growth of Canadian businesses and in making Canada more competitive internationally. The growth of the Canadian nuclear energy industry is a responsibility of the Manufacturing and Processing Technologies Branch, which focuses on competitiveness, international trade, technology and investment.
  • Finally, the National Research Council (NRC), a leading national science agency which falls within the portfolio of Industry Canada, operates the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre (CNBC) which relies on the NRU at the Chalk River Laboratories. The CNBC is used by universities, industry, government and foreign research institutions for advanced materials research.