New Nuclear Power Plant Construction in Canada: Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the role of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in the construction of new nuclear power plants?
- Is an environmental assessment (EA) a prerequisite for the licensing of a new nuclear power plant?
- Who decides where the new nuclear power plants will be built?
- How long will the licensing process take?
- Why is the CNSC adopting international standards?
- How is the licensing process different now than it was the last time nuclear power plants were built in Canada?
- What is the regulatory licensing process if a new nuclear power plant is added to an existing nuclear site?
- What is the role of the Major Projects Management Office (MPMO)?
- What is included in a Staff Review Procedure?
- How do Staff Review Procedures fit into the Environmental Assessment and Licensing process?
- How is a review done using Staff Review Procedures?
Q1. What is the role of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in the construction of new nuclear power plants?
A1. The CNSC regulates all nuclear facilities and activities in Canada. This includes power plants and medical facilities, as well as a variety of other uses of nuclear technology.
The CNSC protects the health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment, and respects Canada's international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Q2. Is an environmental assessment (EA) a prerequisite for the licensing of a new nuclear power plant?
A2. Yes. The EA must be completed with a decision that the project can proceed, as required under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, before a licence can be issued.
Q3. Who decides where the new nuclear power plants will be built?
A3. The proposed location of new nuclear power plants is considered as part of the environmental assessment and subsequent licensing process.
More information can be found by reading CNSC's draft regulatory document entitled Site Evaluation for New Nuclear Power Plants (RD-346) (PDF).
Q4. How long will the licensing process take?
A4. The process to license a new nuclear power plant is triggered by the receipt of a licence application. Separate licences must be granted for site preparation, construction and operation. These licences would be issued in sequence. The CNSC expects that it would take approximately 9 years from the receipt of an application to issuing a licence to operate. An estimated additional year is required for the proponent to enter commercial operation. This estimate includes the time needed for the environmental assessment process to be conducted under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the CNSC's licensing review and hearing processes under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, and the proponent's efforts with respect to the site preparation, construction and commissioning of a new nuclear power plant.
The timeline estimate is highly dependent on the completeness of the application submitted for each licensing phase identified above and whether there are outstanding safety issues to be resolved.
The CNSC will do everything within its control to ensure the efficiency of the licensing process.
Q5. Why is the CNSC adapting international standards?
A5. Any new nuclear power plants will be built according to international best practices. As a result, the CNSC is adapting international standards that draw on the experiences of other nuclear regulators, in order to enhance Canadian requirements.
It's important to note that Canada has contributed, and continues to contribute, significantly to the development of international standards.
Q6. How is the licensing process different now than it was the last time nuclear power plants were built in Canada?
A6. There have been various changes in the regulatory environment:
- As of 2000, the Nuclear Safety Control Act and its regulations have been introduced
- A new environmental assessment process must now be conducted before any licensing decision is made by the CNSC
- New international standards must be considered
- A new joint review panel process allows both environmental assessments and site preparation licensing to run at the same time. While these processes run concurrently, the decisions taken by the joint review panel occur sequentially.
Q7. What is the regulatory licensing process if a new nuclear power plant is added to an existing nuclear site?
A7. Decisions to expand an existing facility would be subject to the provisions of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and to the Nuclear Safety Control Act. The same extensive process that is required for any new nuclear power plant would apply.
Q8. What is the role of the Major Projects Management Office (MPMO)?
A8. For major resource projects such as nuclear power plants, uranium mines or fuel processing facilities, Natural Resources Canada's Major Projects Management Office (MPMO) is responsible for coordinating the work of all the federal departments and agencies that have a role to play in the regulatory process for major resource projects. The MPMO offers licensees a single entry point into the federal regulatory system. More information can be found on the MPMO Web site.
The CNSC is a participant in the MPMO initiative with respect to major nuclear projects, including new nuclear power plants. The MPMO will track and monitor new nuclear power plant projects as they proceed through the regulatory review.
Q9. What is included in a Staff Review Procedure?
A9. Staff Review Procedures include information on the:
- scope and depth of the assessment
- criteria considered in the assessment
- relevant regulatory requirements, codes and standards
They provide instruction to CNSC staff on the conduct of a technical assessment, and inform potential applicants, and the public, about the criteria used to assess Environmental Impact Statements and licence applications for new nuclear power plants.
Q10. How do Staff Review Procedures fit into the Environmental Assessment and Licensing process?
A10. Staff Review Procedures are used during the Technical Assessment stage of the Environmental Assessment and Licensing process. This is when CNSC staff begin to review Environmental Assessment Impact and a licence application of a nuclear project.
Q11. How is a review done using Staff Review Procedures?
A11. An "Assessment Plan" is developed to provide a roadmap for using the Staff Review Procedures (SRPs) to review an Environmental Impact Statement and a licence application in a timely manner. The Assessment Plan outlines the order for conducting the reviews. The plan also specifies the involvement of a number of CNSC experts at the right time to conduct their review. It also takes into account the interdependencies between various SRPs.
Once reviews are completed in accordance with the Assessment Plan and the Staff Review Procedures, an overall set of CNSC staff observations and recommendations are documented and given to the authority responsible for making the EA and licensing decisions for the project that is undergoing review.
The process to make a decision about an EA and licence involves a range of information inputs and steps, including public hearing sessions for public and stakeholder participation.